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Snow hits East Anglia as Met office issues AMBER weather warning for the South East

Up to three inches of snow fell in parts of the UK today and left some rural villages ‘cut off’ after the Met Office warned of road closures and power cuts. 

Drivers described ‘horrendous’ conditions on Britain’s roads as the wintry weather hit the Home Counties in the early hours and forecasters are now predicting snow will be replaced with torrential rain across the UK next week, as temperatures rise. 

A Met Office forecaster said: ‘Atlantic low-pressure systems are expected to cross the south of the county at times, bringing rainfall and periods of slightly milder temperatures, and there will be a risk of snowfall on the boundary between the mild and cold airmasses.’

An amber alert was in place for road closures and power cuts in Eastern England between 5am and 2pm covering Essex, Hertfordshire, Cambridge, Norfolk and Suffolk. Snow was expected this morning in London, Kent, Sussex and further north across East Anglia and the East Midlands. 

The South East of England and East Anglia saw snowfall between 0.8ins and 1.6ins with up to 3.2ins in parts of East Anglia. The lowest temperature was -5.4C at Redesdale Camp, Newcastle upon Tyne, with highs of 52.5F (11.4C) in Gosport Fleetlands, Hampshire. 

But Londoners were left disappointed when only a smattering of snow settled before melting away by 9am, and those in west London saw no snow at all.  

Londoners were left disappointed when only a smattering of snow settled before melting away by 9am, and those in west London saw no snow at all. Pictured: Runner in London 

Forecasters are now predicting snow will be replaced with torrential rain across the UK next week, as temperatures rise. Pictured: People in London

Forecasters are now predicting snow will be replaced with torrential rain across the UK next week, as temperatures rise. Pictured: People in London 

Heavy snow hit Hertfordshire early this morning. Radlett, Bushey, Watford, Borehamwood and Elstree all suffered

Heavy snow hit Hertfordshire early this morning. Radlett, Bushey, Watford, Borehamwood and Elstree all suffered

Heavy Snow at Hampstead, north London, as some parts of the UK were blanketed in snow and freezing conditions today

Heavy Snow at Hampstead, north London, as some parts of the UK were blanketed in snow and freezing conditions today

An amber weather warning was issued in Eastern England between 5am and 2pm covering Essex, Hertfordshire, Cambridge, Norfolk and Suffolk. Pictured, snow in London

An amber weather warning was issued in Eastern England between 5am and 2pm covering Essex, Hertfordshire, Cambridge, Norfolk and Suffolk. Pictured, snow in London

Drivers on the roads in the early hours warned of treacherous conditions on the M40 towards London. One Twitter user wrote: 'Horrendous journey into London. Crashed car across carriageway north of Cherwell Services on M40. (Called police). Further south, carriageway surface dangerous with falling snow.' Pictured, a snow-covered London street

Drivers on the roads in the early hours warned of treacherous conditions on the M40 towards London. One Twitter user wrote: ‘Horrendous journey into London. Crashed car across carriageway north of Cherwell Services on M40. (Called police). Further south, carriageway surface dangerous with falling snow.’ Pictured, a snow-covered London street

Heavy snow at Hampstead, north London, as large parts of the UK were blanketed amid an amber weather warning and freezing conditions

Heavy snow at Hampstead, north London, as large parts of the UK were blanketed amid an amber weather warning and freezing conditions

Parts of Kent woke up to the white stuff this morning. Yesterday the Met Office issued a yellow weather warning for snow and ice and warned motorists to take extra care on roads

Parts of Kent woke up to the white stuff this morning. Yesterday the Met Office issued a yellow weather warning for snow and ice and warned motorists to take extra care on roads

A car had an accident and skidded off the road in the snow in Snetterton, Norfolk, as the weather caused treacherous driving conditions on Saturday morning

A car had an accident and skidded off the road in the snow in Snetterton, Norfolk, as the weather caused treacherous driving conditions on Saturday morning

People walk in the rain over Millennium Bridge in London. Parts of eastern England saw up to three inches of snow

People walk in the rain over Millennium Bridge in London. Parts of eastern England saw up to three inches of snow

Drivers on the roads early this morning warned of treacherous conditions on the M40 towards London. One Twitter user wrote: ‘Horrendous journey into London. Crashed car across carriageway north of Cherwell Services on M40. (Called police). Further south, carriageway surface dangerous with falling snow.’

Highs of 7C (44.6F) are expected across London today after freezing temperatures overnight, with the mercury only dropping three degrees to stay around 4C (39.2F) tonight. The temperature could be about 0C in areas of eastern England and parts of Scotland for much of Saturday.

The Met Office said: ‘A band of rain, preceded by some snow, will clear quickly eastwards this morning, leaving a covering of snow across East Anglia. Brighter weather following, with showers affecting northwestern parts. Windy for many, with temperatures closer to average than recently.’  

Temperatures plummeted as low as -11.8C (10.8F) at Ravensworth, North Yorkshire, as the mercury took a dip in northern areas with lying snow yesterday. It was the coldest temperature recorded in England since January 31, 2019, when -13.2C (8.2F) was recorded in County Durham. 

The Met Office warns some rural communities – even in the South – ‘could become cut off’ and that there could be further treacherous travelling conditions today.   

Weather warning today

Weather warning tomorrow

The Met Office issued warnings for ice today (left) and another three including an amber alert for snow tomorrow (right)

An early morning runner in the snow in Sevenoaks, Kent, looks flushed as she exercises in freezing conditions

An early morning runner in the snow in Sevenoaks, Kent, looks flushed as she exercises in freezing conditions

People walk in the rain over Millennium Bridge in London as heavy rain struck the capital on Saturday afternoon

People walk in the rain over Millennium Bridge in London as heavy rain struck the capital on Saturday afternoon

Snow covered streets in Enfield, London, early this morning, as an amber weather warning was put out by the Met Office

Snow covered streets in Enfield, London, early this morning, as an amber weather warning was put out by the Met Office

Heavy snow followed by freezing conditions left motorists facing treacherous driving conditions on the A1 in Northumberland today, with cars skidding off the A1 northbound at Stannington and crashing into a farmers field

Heavy snow followed by freezing conditions left motorists facing treacherous driving conditions on the A1 in Northumberland today, with cars skidding off the A1 northbound at Stannington and crashing into a farmers field

A patio and garden was completely covered in the white stuff in Enfield, London, early Saturday morning

A patio and garden was completely covered in the white stuff in Enfield, London, early Saturday morning

A snow covered street in Catterick, North Yorkshire. Parts of eastern England could see up to four inches of snow on Saturday as forecasters warned of the potential for 'significant disruption'

A snow covered street in Catterick, North Yorkshire. Parts of eastern England could see up to four inches of snow on Saturday as forecasters warned of the potential for ‘significant disruption’

Horse riders head through a waterlogged Wimbledon Common on a cold morning due to heavy rain this morning

Horse riders head through a waterlogged Wimbledon Common on a cold morning due to heavy rain this morning

The weather warning, which lasts until the evening, extends as far as Kent and the North Downs, and also includes Oxfordshire and the Chilterns.

Grahame Madge, Met Office spokesman, said: ‘We have a weather front moving across through the day, which will fall as heavy rain further west, where there is mild air, and turning to snow when it hits cold air in the East.’ 

But Londoners were left disappointed this morning when they woke up to ‘sneeze in the flour’ levels of the white stuff, after forecasters suggested there could be up to four inches.

One took to Twitter to write: ‘I am very jealous of all the snow in Leeds. We’ve had about 10 snowflakes on North London.’

Another said: ‘I genuinely woke up early so I could see some of the alleged “heavy snow” as I didn’t expect it to lie on the ground. Either it was over when I woke up or it never happened.’ 

One penned: ‘Very wet and but not so windy in London too – way before dawn today I was biking in fine snow drops, then it sleeted and finally turned to icy rain, which it’s still doing and sadly set in for the day.’

One added: ‘I was up at 7am in NE London and it was full on snow. Gone by 9am.’

‘This London snow looks an awful lot like your average day to day rain not gonna lie… my kids are furious, taking them hours to finish building this rain man,’ another said.   

Londoners were left disappointed this morning when they woke up to ‘sneeze in the flour’ levels of the white stuff

A postman braves the snow in his shorts as he made his deliveries in Maldon, Essex, this morning

A postman braves the snow in his shorts as he made his deliveries in Maldon, Essex, this morning

One took to Twitter to write: ‘I am very jealous of all the snow in Leeds. We’ve had about 10 snowflakes on North London’

A man jogs down a snow covered street in Catterick, North Yorkshire, as the north of England woke up to a blanket of snow

A man jogs down a snow covered street in Catterick, North Yorkshire, as the north of England woke up to a blanket of snow

Cars were coated in snow in Chesham

Houses are covered in a layer of snow in Chesham

Cars and houses were coated in a layer of snow in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, as cold weather continued south last night 

A Twitter-user in Enfield, London, took out a ruler to measure almost a centimetre of snow this morning. He wrote: 'It’s tried its best to settle on gritted roads but intensity is lowering now to 4/10 EN4 #uksnow ..embarrassingly this is probably the most snow here in almost 2 years (since early Feb 2019)'

A Twitter-user in Enfield, London, took out a ruler to measure almost a centimetre of snow this morning. He wrote: ‘It’s tried its best to settle on gritted roads but intensity is lowering now to 4/10 EN4 #uksnow ..embarrassingly this is probably the most snow here in almost 2 years (since early Feb 2019)’

Walkers shelter underneath the hoods of their coats and umbrellas as they head through heavy rain on Wimbledon Common

Walkers shelter underneath the hoods of their coats and umbrellas as they head through heavy rain on Wimbledon Common

Meanwhile, highway chiefs in Hampshire refused to stop salting icy roads in the New Forest despite a litany of tragedies including one in which four ponies were killed.

The ponies were eagerly licking freshly-laid salt on the B3078 Roger Penny Way, near Brook, when they were hit by a Land Rover Discovery. Three were killed instantly and the fourth died a few minutes later after being lured to their deaths by salt laid on the icy road. 

Horse and ponies love the tast of salt, and Hampshire county councillor David Harrison urged the authority to ‘look at the wisdom’ of treating New Forest roads, saying grit might be less likely to lead to tragedies.

But the council’s deputy leader, Coun Rob Humby, said salting would continue – to protect motorists. He said: ‘I fully recognise the uniqueness of the New Forest environment but the county council has a duty of care to take reasonable steps to keep the roads clear of snow and ice.’

The Met Office has warned drivers to accelerate their cars ‘gently’ and to leave a large gap between surrounding vehicles.

Parts of Wales and Northern Ireland will be mostly cloudy, with some bands of rain in the northern regions.

Greg Dewhurst, a Met Office forecaster said: ‘Areas in eastern England and around the M25 could see up to 8cm of snow, especially as Saturday progresses. Other areas in England and Scotland will see some snowfall here and there, with Saturday being the colder of the two days over the weekend.

‘Temperatures are unlikely to rise above 10C, with a lot of areas closer to freezing.’

There were also 25 flood warnings across England on Saturday, stretching from the South East to the North East, meaning ‘immediate action is required’, according to the Environment Agency.

This is expected to clear up in the evening, going into Sunday, when southern and eastern parts of the UK will see dry, sunny spells.

North-western regions are expected to see showers, with a ‘spell of more persistent rain’ later on in the day.

A garden was covered in a light coating of snow in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, early Saturday morning

A garden was covered in a light coating of snow in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, early Saturday morning

A dog walker braved the wet weather on Wimbledon common this morning. While snow coated parts of Hertfordshire and north London, other areas of the capital only saw rain

A dog walker braved the wet weather on Wimbledon common this morning. While snow coated parts of Hertfordshire and north London, other areas of the capital only saw rain

Snow in Enfield, London, as the sun started to rise early Saturday morning ahead of a day of wet and wintry weather

Snow in Enfield, London, as the sun started to rise early Saturday morning ahead of a day of wet and wintry weather

Mark Millins, of Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, urged people to ‘take extra care’ when out walking or driving. 

Hold your horses… lots more snow on the way 

Heavy snow brought transport chaos but at least some had the horsepower to cope.

For Stephanie Anderson it was a chance for a gallop with Clydesdale horse Davie near their home at Westruther in Berwickshire in the Scottish Borders.

The Clydesdales are working horses and help plough the land for her family’s market gardening business, and they are also used for events such as weddings.

On the hoof: Stephanie Anderson out for a gallop with her horse Davie near their home at Westruther in Berwickshire

On the hoof: Stephanie Anderson out for a gallop with her horse Davie near their home at Westruther in Berwickshire

A Met Office spokesman said: ‘The highest accumulations of snow were in North East England, where 15cm (6in) was recorded at Copley, County Durham.’ He said snow was recorded as far south as Lakenheath and Marham, in Suffolk.   

Main roads in Scotland were brought to a standstill on Thursday, particularly in areas with an amber ‘be prepared’ weather warning. In Dunblane, Perthshire, one resident said the only traffic was sledges.

In Renfrewshire, drivers abandoned their cars after a number of accidents blocked local roads. 

One motorist thanked locals on Church Road in Giffnock for bringing her tea following a dramatic three-car crash. She wrote on social media: ‘Don’t think I will see my car again.’

On the Stewarton Road, linking south Glasgow with Newton Mearns, cars were abandoned, while police used their vehicles to block off roads.

Train services between Glasgow and East Kilbride were suspended for a while after a vehicle crashed into a railway bridge in Busby.   

Heavy snowfall blocked the A9 southbound at Dunblane, with traffic being diverted through the town. Those aged over 80 had been invited to get their Covid vaccination in the town’s Victoria Hall but many thought it unsafe to leave the house.

Twenty Perthshire primary schools and nurseries closed and were unable to accommodate the children of key workers.

One Dunblane resident said: ‘We feel we have been cut off. There’s almost a foot of snow here. The only traffic moving on our street are the sledges.’ 

Traffic Scotland warned drivers of ‘difficult driving conditions’ on the A82 between Tyndrum and Bridge of Orchy. An accident on the M9 closed the Friarton Bridge, with traffic being diverted through Perth.

Police Scotland’s road policing unit has warned against drivers travelling in the wintry weather.

Chief Superintendent Louise Blakelock said: ‘Government restrictions on travelling remain in place across Scotland because of the ongoing pandemic.

‘People should not leave their homes unless for essential purposes and work from home where possible. The best way to stay safe is to stay at home.

‘In the current wintry weather please consider if your journey is exempt under the regulations and also if it really is essential and whether you can delay it until the weather improves.’  

The North has borne the brunt of heavy snowfall so far this week – but the wintry weather is set to hit the Home Counties today. Pictured: West Yorkshire yesterday

The North has borne the brunt of heavy snowfall so far this week – but the wintry weather is set to hit the Home Counties today. Pictured: West Yorkshire yesterday

The Met Office has issued a snow warning for South East England which will run from 3am to 8pm on Saturday

The Met Office has issued a snow warning for South East England which will run from 3am to 8pm on Saturday

After the latest weather front passes, Atlantic-dominated weather will become established, bringing moister and warmer air with rain dominating. This will confine snowfall to the highest elevations in the north.

Nick Silkstone, deputy chief meteorologist, said: ‘During Monday and Tuesday we will see large rainfall totals across the high ground of western Britain. This rainfall combined with snowmelt will lead to a high volume of water moving through river catchments in these regions.’

During Wednesday, an area of low-pressure anchored in the North Sea will establish a northerly air flow coming into the UK, heralding a return to colder conditions, with wintry showers over higher ground.

Those fearing a return of the Beast from the East – the Siberian weather system that brought heavy snow in February and March 2018 – can rest easy after the Met Office said it is unlikely to roar back in the coming weeks. 

Group of residents in snow-bound Yorkshire build 10ft fall snowman near their homes

A group of residents in snow-bound Yorkshire have spread a bit of joy by building a 10ft tall snowman near their homes.

Gemma Younger, 34, and her neighbours spent three hours building the ‘tallest snowman’ she’d ever seen in their shared garden on Thursday. The snowman, which was the first she had ever built, made her feel like she was ‘reliving her youth’.

A team of five people, including her neighbours Dawn, Darren and Jack Roberts, as well as her son Alfie, ten, moulded the snowman limb by limb in a joint effort in Catterick, North Yorkshire.

Jack, who is 6ft 3in, was tasked with completing the snowman’s head and was hoisted up in the air by his mother who held a small step ladder by the base of the snowman.

Gemma Younger, 34, and her neighbours spent three hours building the 'tallest snowman' she'd ever seen, in Catterick, North Yorkshire

Gemma Younger, 34, and her neighbours spent three hours building the ‘tallest snowman’ she’d ever seen, in Catterick, North Yorkshire

The friendly neighbours wore masks and maintained a 6ft (2m) distance between them at all times to comply with social distancing measures. Ms Younger said Alfie played in the snow for the whole day, from 9am until 6pm.

Ms Younger, who is originally from Brighton, said: ‘We saw the snow once we woke up, my son was straight out the doors making snowmen. My neighbour was clearing the path and my son started launching snowballs, as you do.

‘He said he was going to make a snowman, if we could help we were more than welcome to. It was challenging but fun. It was a team effort. It was just reliving our youths. It’s the first snowman I’ve ever made.’

The hotel barmaid and married mother-of-two said: ‘There was so much snow, that’s all just from our back garden. Down south we never had snow like this, but moving up north I’ve seen more snow in three years than I’ve ever seen. 

‘It’s the most snow they’ve ever seen. My son didn’t come back in until 6pm, he was just playing with the snow all day. It was just a good laugh. We used a tape measure and he’s about 10ft tall. It’s the tallest snowman I’ve ever seen it.’  

 

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UK weather: Travel chaos warning over icy roads and freezing fog

Snow will fall in London tomorrow with up to four inches across the South East as Britons endured another day of icy chaos and temperatures plunged to nearly -12C (10F) on England’s coldest morning of the winter so far.

The Met Office has issued a weather warning from 3am to 8pm tomorrow covering the capital, with 1in (3cm) expected to fall widely over the South East with up to 4in (10cm) possible in East Anglia and over higher ground.

Covered by the warning are London, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Buckinghamshire, Sussex, Hampshire, Kent, Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Cambridgeshire, Surrey, Rutland, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire.  

Today, people travelling during the lockdown were told to expect more ‘tricky’ conditions as ice and freezing fog brought further hazards one day after heavy snowfall caused major disruption in northern England and Scotland.

The Met Office also put out an ice warning this morning for all of Scotland and most of England with the mercury plunging to -11.8C (10.8F) in the North Yorkshire village of Ravensworth by 9am today.

Forecasters said the rain, sleet and snow would be dying out, leaving icy surfaces and difficult travel conditions amid concerns of people falling over on slippery pavements and motorists skidding on untreated roads.

People across Britain awoke to a widespread frost and temperatures hovering around freezing this morning, with the mercury unlikely to get above 5C (41F) in London today before dropping back to 0C (32F) tonight.

A runner goes for a job in the snow in Leeds this morning as the country experiences further sub-zero conditions

A van stops in the snow in Leeds this morning as hazardous conditions continue to affect motorists in West Yorkshire

A van stops in the snow in Leeds this morning as hazardous conditions continue to affect motorists in West Yorkshire

Flooding at St Ives in Cambridgeshire this morning for the second time in a month after the River Great Ouse burst its banks

Flooding at St Ives in Cambridgeshire this morning for the second time in a month after the River Great Ouse burst its banks

The A1058 Coast Road between North Shields and Newcastle was closed after multiple crashes this morning amid black ice

The A1058 Coast Road between North Shields and Newcastle was closed after multiple crashes this morning amid black ice

Vehicles queue on the M61 southbound near Bolton in Greater Manchester this morning after a collision in the freezing fog

Vehicles queue on the M61 southbound near Bolton in Greater Manchester this morning after a collision in the freezing fog

Nearly 200 areas of the country remain on flood watch as well, with the Environment Agency issuing 144 flood alerts and 43 more serious warnings for England – while Natural Resources Wales has put out two alerts.

A further 18-hour weather warning for snow and ice has been issued for most of Scotland and northern England tomorrow, from 3am until 9pm, with the Met Office warning up to 8in (20cm) could fall on higher routes.

An area of rain pushing eastwards will turn to snow, with forecasters warning of travel delays of roads with some stranded vehicles and passengers, along with delayed or cancelled rail and air travel and a chance of power cuts.

The rain will turn to snow as it encounters colder air across Scotland and parts of northern and eastern England, and at first the main hazard may be rain falling onto frozen surfaces leading to ice.

Snow will become more likely during the early morning, with heavier snowfall most likely above 650ft (200m) in Scotland and northern England, where 2in (5cm) to 4in (10cm) may accumulate, possibly 8in (20cm) even higher.

At lower levels and further south, up to 2in (5cm) may accumulate in places, but the Met Office said situation was ‘finely balanced’, with the chance that most lower-lying areas, especially in the east, will see rain or sleet. 

Vehicles being towed away and cars on the side verges in the Wallsend area of North Tyneside this morning

Vehicles being towed away and cars on the side verges in the Wallsend area of North Tyneside this morning

A beautiful misty sunrise behind Winter Hill and over low lying fog near Chorley in Lancashire this morning

A beautiful misty sunrise behind Winter Hill and over low lying fog near Chorley in Lancashire this morning

A van on a flooded road in Bottesford, Leicestershire, this morning as nearly 200 areas of the UK remain on flood watch

A van on a flooded road in Bottesford, Leicestershire, this morning as nearly 200 areas of the UK remain on flood watch

A horse in a frosty field on a cold morning in the countryside at Dunsden in Oxfordshire today

A horse in a frosty field on a cold morning in the countryside at Dunsden in Oxfordshire today

A Land Rover Defender drives through a flooded road in Bottesford, Leicestershire, this morning

A Land Rover Defender drives through a flooded road in Bottesford, Leicestershire, this morning

The A1058 Coast Road between North Shields and Newcastle has been closed today following multiple crashes

The A1058 Coast Road between North Shields and Newcastle has been closed today following multiple crashes

A car on a flooded road in Bottesford, Leicestershire, this morning as the country continues to experience severe weather

A car on a flooded road in Bottesford, Leicestershire, this morning as the country continues to experience severe weather

Met Office meteorologist Becky Mitchell said: ‘Saturday is the next day we could potentially see some snow.

2020 was the second hottest year on record 

Most of us didn’t manage a foreign holiday last year, but at least there was one consolation – it was the second hottest 12 months on record.

Global temperatures in 2020 were on average around 1.28C above those in the second half of the 19th century.

It was just a fraction of a degree below the record hottest year of 2016, when average temperatures were 1.29C above pre-industrial levels.

Under the international Paris Agreement, countries have pledged to limit warming to 2C above 1800s levels.

The analysis was carried out by the Met Office, University of East Anglia and the UK National Centre for Atmospheric Science. 

Dr Colin Morice, from the Met Office, said: ‘It is a sign of the continued impact of human-induced climate change.’

‘We may even see some temporary snow across parts of the South East, towards East Anglia but at the moment we’re not expecting to see the same amount of snowfall as we have had.’ 

Ms Mitchell continued: ‘Into next week it’s quite uncertain but it looks like temperatures will be around average to start with – so not particularly cold.

‘But, towards the end of the week there are signs we could potentially see further snowfall across northern parts of the country.’

It comes after up to 6in (15cm) of snow fell in the North of England yesterday, leading to picture postcard scenes but also crashes, skids and prangs. 

A double decker bus slid across a road in Halifax, West Yorkshire, while a car ended up wrapped around a pole in nearby Outlane.

More than 600 schools had to close and the weather brought havoc to the Covid vaccination drive, with some centres forced to shut or postpone appointments.

But for some it was a chance for a little fun in the snow, with youngsters leaping on toboggans in Penicuik, Scotland. Flurries fell as far south as Suffolk.

South eastern areas too mild for snow were not spared, as heavy rain led to flooding. Rivers including the Great Ouse in Cambridgeshire burst their banks.

Severe weather closed more than 600 schools which had stayed open for key workers’ children, mostly in West and South Yorkshire. 

Staff at the Fenn Bell Inn in Hoo, Kent, battled to salvage furniture after it was flooded. 

Connor Gordon, one of those trying to save the pub’s possessions, said: ‘The building is ruined, nearly a foot of water inside, it’s even deeper outside. The ditches are full and bursting, the roads are flooded and getting worse.’

Weather warning today

Weather warning tomorrow

The Met Office has issued weather warnings for ice this morning (left) and another for snow and ice tomorrow (right)

Elderly patients due to receive Covid jabs at Newcastle’s Centre for Life mass vaccination hub were advised to rebook their appointments to avoid the bad weather.

Hold your horses… lots more snow on the way 

Heavy snow brought transport chaos yesterday but at least some had the horsepower to cope.

For Stephanie Anderson it was a chance for a gallop with Clydesdale horse Davie near their home at Westruther in Berwickshire in the Scottish Borders.

The Clydesdales are working horses and help plough the land for her family’s market gardening business, and they are also used for events such as weddings.

On the hoof: Stephanie Anderson out for a gallop with her horse Davie near their home at Westruther in Berwickshire

On the hoof: Stephanie Anderson out for a gallop with her horse Davie near their home at Westruther in Berwickshire

The Newcastle NHS Hospitals Foundation Trust tweeted: ‘It’s easy to do by calling 119. No need to risk travelling in the bad weather.’ 

And all vaccinations at the Priory Campus in Barnsley had to be postponed from 3pm, with patients advised not to travel. 

Snow caused problems for ambulance services in Yorkshire who struggled to keep up with the high demand.

Mark Millins, of Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, urged people to ‘take extra care’ when out walking or driving. 

A Met Office spokesman said: ‘The highest accumulations of snow were in North East England, where 15cm (6in) was recorded at Copley, County Durham.’ He said snow was recorded as far south as Lakenheath and Marham, in Suffolk. 

Main roads in Scotland yesterday were brought to a standstill, particularly in areas with an amber ‘be prepared’ weather warning. In Dunblane, Perthshire, one resident said the only traffic was sledges.

In Renfrewshire, drivers abandoned their cars after a number of accidents blocked local roads. 

One motorist thanked locals on Church Road in Giffnock for bringing her tea following a dramatic three-car crash. She wrote on social media: ‘Don’t think I will see my car again.’

On the Stewarton Road, linking south Glasgow with Newton Mearns, cars were abandoned, while police used their vehicles to block off roads.

Train services between Glasgow and East Kilbride were suspended for a while after a vehicle crashed into a railway bridge in Busby.   

Heavy snowfall blocked the A9 southbound at Dunblane, with traffic being diverted through the town. Those aged over 80 had been invited to get their Covid vaccination in the town’s Victoria Hall but many thought it unsafe to leave the house.

Twenty Perthshire primary schools and nurseries closed and were unable to accommodate the children of key workers.

One Dunblane resident said: ‘We feel we have been cut off. There’s almost a foot of snow here. The only traffic moving on our street are the sledges.’ 

Traffic Scotland warned drivers of ‘difficult driving conditions’ on the A82 between Tyndrum and Bridge of Orchy. An accident on the M9 closed the Friarton Bridge, with traffic being diverted through Perth.

Snow and black ice on the roads in Leeds this morning is causing hazardous conditions for people in West Yorkshire

Snow and black ice on the roads in Leeds this morning is causing hazardous conditions for people in West Yorkshire

Icy conditions this morning on the M1 in West Yorkshire as motorists were warned to take extra care on the roads

Icy conditions this morning on the M1 in West Yorkshire as motorists were warned to take extra care on the roads

Much of yesterday's snow in Leeds had frozen over by this morning bringing black ice on the roads for motorists

Much of yesterday’s snow in Leeds had frozen over by this morning bringing black ice on the roads for motorists

Police Scotland’s road policing unit has warned against drivers travelling in the wintry weather.

Chief Superintendent Louise Blakelock said: ‘Government restrictions on travelling remain in place across Scotland because of the ongoing pandemic.

‘People should not leave their homes unless for essential purposes and work from home where possible. The best way to stay safe is to stay at home.

‘In the current wintry weather please consider if your journey is exempt under the regulations and also if it really is essential and whether you can delay it until the weather improves.’ 

Sunday should be mostly dry with isolated showers, but more snow could be on the way next week followed by a cold and unsettled remainder of the month.

However, those fearing a return of the Beast from the East – the Siberian weather system that brought heavy snow in February and March 2018 – can rest easy after the Met Office said it is unlikely to roar back in the coming weeks.

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Police dish out 66 times more fines in crackdown on Covid-19 rule flouters

Police dish out 66 times more fines to Covid-19 rule flouters than in first lockdown… as hundreds of students hold SNOWBALL FIGHT in park and more than 20 people ‘sledge’ on single sheet

  • Scotland Yard Deputy Commissioner Steve House revealed extent of crackdown 
  • Sir Steve said the officers were now ‘accelerating more quickly’ to enforcement
  • In the first lockdown, Met Police gave out 4.5 fines a day compared to 300 now

Britain’s biggest police force is handing out a record 300 penalties a day – with more Covid rule breakers fined in the past few weeks than in the first nine months of the pandemic.

Scotland Yard Deputy Commissioner Sir Steve House yesterday revealed the extent of the crackdown as it emerged that officers are doling out 66 times more fines every day than during the first lockdown.

When the restrictions were first announced, the Metropolitan Police dished out 4.5 fines a day on average between March 27 and April 13.

In comparison, more than 300 people a day are now getting fixed penalty notices, with almost 4,000 penalties handed out so far in London. 

Scotland Yard Deputy Commissioner Sir Steve House yesterday revealed the extent of the crackdown as it emerged that officers are doling out 66 times more fines every day than during the first lockdown. Pictured: Police in Clapham Common, London

Around 200 youngsters took part in a snowball fight in Hyde Park, Leeds, on Thursday afternoon

Sir Steve said officers were ‘accelerating more quickly’ to enforcement rather than listening to excuses from Covid rule breakers this time around.

‘We have seen a significant increase in the amount of fixed penalty notices that were issued,’ he said. ‘The number is increasing quite rapidly day on day. I wish it weren’t so. I wish everybody was abiding by the regulations.’

Between March 27 and December 20, the force handed out 1,761 penalties for breaking the rules, including for being outside home without a reasonable excuse, not wearing a mask or organising a mass gathering.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has told police they can question people if they find them sitting on park benches.

Witnesses said the scenes showed a ‘blatant disregard’ for the strain the NHS is under. Liam Ford shot a brief video of the scene on a walk with his girlfriend (pictured)

Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick has ordered officers to take a more hardline approach during this lockdown, saying it is ‘preposterous’ to suggest that the public would be unaware of the need to follow the rules.

Yesterday her deputy said it was clear the public were not taking the rules as seriously this time around and the police had been asked by the Government to step up enforcement. 

Sir Steve described his frustration at anti-lockdown protests, citing a demonstration in Clapham, south London, last week where protesters were heckled by the public.

‘As they were walking down Clapham High Street members of the public who were legitimately out started shouting at them and telling them they were a bunch of idiots,’ he said. ‘I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with that view.’

The furloughed retail worker said: ‘With what’s going on, I can’t condone mass gatherings like that.’ But Max Powell, a first year student at Leeds Beckett University, described it as ‘the most fun we’ve had sober’

Around 20 people on a makeshift sledge cram onto a tarpaulin at Roudhay Park, Leeds today

Around 20 people on a makeshift sledge cram onto a tarpaulin at Roudhay Park, Leeds today

Pictured: Leeds today

Pictured: Leeds today

Others were seen on skis and snowboards as snow settled in West Yorkshire on Thursday

He also told the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee that his officers urgently needed vaccines and the force were happy to vaccinate their own officers and staff.

Around 1,700 Metropolitan Police staff are off sick or self-isolating. 

On Wednesday night, Met officers broke up a party at an industrial unit in Southwark, south London, where they found at least 20 revellers on top of the building. Local residents cheered when police arrived.

Two people were arrested, one on suspicion of carrying an offensive weapon, the other for suspected drug dealing. Five people were handed fines for breaching Covid restrictions.

An illegal house party attended by up to 100 people in South Mimms, Hertfordshire, was also broken up by police.

Police seized alcohol and music equipment from the organiser. One officer was hurt while trying to disperse the crowd and one person was arrested. At least 12 people were handed fines.

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Boots and Superdrug start dishing out Covid vaccines

Boots and Superdrug have started dishing out coronavirus vaccines this morning after No10 finally turned to the high street to deliver its lockdown-ending promise of immunising almost 14million people by mid-February.

MailOnline revealed this week that the Boots store in Halifax and Superdrug branch in Guildford, Surrey, would be included in the first wave of high street chemists to join the national effort. 

The chains are among six pharmacies across England to be converted into Covid hubs this morning and will be able to administer hundreds of jabs a day between 8am and 8pm.  

Vaccines are also being dispensed at Andrews Pharmacy in Macclesfield, Cheshire, Cullimore Chemist in Edgware, north London, Woodside Pharmacy in Telford, Shropshire, and Appleton Village pharmacy in Widnes, Cheshire.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the move was ‘fantastic’ and ‘will make a big difference’ in ramping up the national jab programme, while a Government source said ministers were on track to reach 3million weekly jabs by the start of February and hit the 13.9m target by next month.

The source told the Sun: ‘We’re in a good place and have enough to meet our pledge, with supply continuously improving. We are already vaccinating more than 200,000 a day and are nowhere near capacity. If things go smoothly we could well be doing 400,000 a day — three million a week — by the start of February.’

But Independent chemists who’ve been begging for months to help chip in said they were ‘concerned’ that the target would be missed unless more of England’s 11,500 pharmacies were drafted in. Just 2.5m Brits have been jabbed so far since the national programme launched in early December, a fifth of the 13.9m target by mid-February.

Leyla Hannbeck, CEO of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, told MailOnline: ‘We are relieved to see that six designated pharmacy sites have been given the opportunity this week to administer the Covid-19 vaccine and we’re 100 per cent committed to help NHS England work through any challenges in order to allow many more community pharmacies to play their part. 

‘However, as we are yet to see the current vaccination numbers, we are concerned that the target of 13.9m may not be met by mid-February if not many more of the nation’s accessible high street pharmacies, who are reliable healthcare providers are able to offer the vaccine. We want to continue working with the government to enable this vital vaccine to reach all communities, much sooner than they currently are.’ 

It comes after it emerged more than 21million Covid jabs are on British soil, meaning there are enough doses to hit the target of injecting all over-70s, care home residents and health staff by February 15. Not all the vaccine consignments have passed regulatory checks – and many are yet to be put into vials. But the fact so many logistical hurdles have been jumped is a major victory in the fight against coronavirus. 

Brenda Clegg, 92, receiving a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine from pharmacist Rae Hynes at the Boots pharmacy in Halifax, West Yorkshire

Patricia Main, 75, receiving a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine from pharmacist Bhavika Mistry at the Boots pharmacy in Halifax,

Patricia Main, 75, receiving a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine from pharmacist Bhavika Mistry at the Boots pharmacy in Halifax,

The Covid-19 vaccination centre at the Boots pharmacy in Halifax, which was among the first wave of pharmacies to be recruited to help the national effort

The Covid-19 vaccination centre at the Boots pharmacy in Halifax, which was among the first wave of pharmacies to be recruited to help the national effort

Pharmacist Andrew Hudson administers a dose of the coronavirus vaccine to Robert Salt, 82, at Andrews Pharmacy in Macclesfield, Cheshire.

Pharmacist Andrew Hudson administers a dose of the coronavirus vaccine to Robert Salt, 82, at Andrews Pharmacy in Macclesfield, Cheshire.

Andrews Pharmacy was among six high street chemists to start dishing out doses of the jabs this morning

Andrews Pharmacy was among six high street chemists to start dishing out doses of the jabs this morning

But, amid reports of manufacturing and supply issues, small pharmacies claim to have still not been contacted about getting involved, even though they claim they have the expertise and local knowledge to be able to significantly bolster the programme.

Those who are eligible for a Covid vaccine will be contacted and invited to make an appointment through the normal NHS booking service. This gives them the option of having a vaccine at their local pharmacy or in a GP-led vaccination centre.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told MPs that distribution ‘will be going to 24/7 as soon as we can’ but said supply of doses remained the main sticking point. At the moment the pharmacies will run a 12-hour day operation.

The six pharmacies have been picked because they can deliver large volumes of the vaccine and allow for social distancing, the Government says. Mr Hancock added: ‘Pharmacies sit at the heart of local communities and will make a big difference to our rollout programme by providing even more local, convenient places for those that are eligible to get their jab.’

UK has enough doses to vaccinate all over-70s, care home residents and NHS frontliners 

More than 21million Covid jabs are on British soil, the Daily Mail revealed today.

It means there are enough doses to hit the target of injecting all over-70s, care home residents and health staff by February 15.

Not all the vaccine consignments have passed regulatory checks – and many are yet to be put into vials. But the fact so many logistical hurdles have been jumped is a major victory in the fight against coronavirus.

Boris Johnson tonight pledged a ‘big, big stream of vaccines’ would arrive over the coming weeks. Three million have already been given out.

Around 2.6million people have received at least one dose of Covid vaccine across the UK so far, with just four and a half weeks remaining for the Government to hit its target of reaching the 15million most vulnerable.

Nearly 208,000 received their first dose on Tuesday, according to figures published last night – up from 145,000 the day before.

AstraZeneca, the firm which helped develop the Oxford University vaccine, yesterday revealed it is to double the number of vaccines released to the NHS by next week, with production to then be ramped up to two million doses a week.

The firm is understood to have enough vaccine for 19million doses already in the country, of which 1.1million have already been provided. At least another three million are in vials, awaiting batch approval by regulators. ‘In excess’ of one million of these are expected to be released next week.

Another 15million doses are at factories in Oxford, Staffordshire and Wrexham, waiting to be put in vials.

Pfizer is understood to have delivered at least five million doses.

It means enough doses for 24million vaccines have been provided so far – of which 3million have already been given out.

AstraZeneca is expected to provide a total of 40million by the end of March, by which time Moderna – a third firm with an approved vaccine and a deal with the UK – will start to provide the first of 17million doses.

Batch approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency remains a key hurdle – with only two consignments of the Oxford vaccine released for use so far. But officials are confident that issue will be resolved soon.

A Government spokesman said: ‘The UK has already vaccinated more people than any other country in Europe, and we are mobilising government, the NHS and our armed forces as part of a massive national effort. Our vaccine supply and scheduled deliveries will fully support the vaccination of the top four [priority] groups by February 15.’

Mr Johnson said: ‘We have a big, big stream of vaccines coming down the track but there is also a programme to accelerate the delivery of the Oxford vaccine, the remaining Pfizer vaccine is being brought forward, the Moderna vaccine as well.’

By the end of the month more than 200 community chemists with capacity for 1,000 doses a week will be able to give vaccines, according to NHS England. The pharmacies join the 200 hospitals, around 800 GP clinics and seven mass vaccination centres where jabs are already being handed out.   

Superdrug last week told MailOnline that it had five sites ready to dish out the vaccine, with a spokesperson saying stores in Manchester, Leeds, Bristol, Guildford and Basingstoke were just waiting on deliveries of the jab.  Boots also said it had several sites ready to go from last week. Supply is thought to be the main stumbling block in getting the branches up and running. 

The expanded vaccination service in England comes as the daily reported UK death toll reached a new high on Wednesday, with 1,564 fatalities recorded within 28 days of a positive test.

The latest figures meant the grim milestone of more than 100,000 deaths involving coronavirus has now been passed in the UK, according to official data.

The Prime Minister warned that hospital intensive care units (ICUs) face being overwhelmed unless coronavirus rates are brought under control, with the latest official figures showing more than 36,000 people are in hospital with coronavirus, including almost 3,500 on ventilation.

He told MPs: ‘If you ask me when do we think that the ICU capacity is likely to be overtopped, I can’t give you a prediction for that.

‘But all I can say is that the risk is very substantial and we have to keep the pressure off the NHS and the only way to do that is to follow the current lockdown.’

Mr Johnson told the Commons Liaison Committee that ‘the situation is very, very tough indeed in the NHS’ and ‘the strain is colossal’ on staff.

The Scottish Government published a 16-page document setting out how it intends to vaccinate 4.5 million people, including 400,000 a week from the end of February.

It set out the supply of vaccine from Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna from the start of April that it expects to receive each week.

This angered ministers in London, with a senior Government source warning: ‘Publication of numbers like these risks suppliers coming under pressure from other countries.

‘These vaccines are a finite resource and as we have said throughout – supply is the limiting step.’

Amid the warnings of struggling hospitals, the Government’s top scientist also warned the country is ‘in for a pretty grim period’ of deaths which will not ‘reduce quickly’.

Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance told ITV’s Peston programme: ‘The daily numbers jump around a bit but I think we are in a position now – when you look at the number of infections we’ve had over the past few weeks and how this is likely to continue, so I don’t think they’re going to drop very quickly – that I’m afraid we’re in a period of high death numbers that’s going to carry on for some weeks.

‘It’s not going to come down quickly even if the measures that are in place now start to reduce the infection numbers.

‘So we’re in for a pretty grim period, I’m afraid.’

In his two-hour questioning from a committee of MPs, the Prime Minister also acknowledged concerns about a new strain of coronavirus from Brazil, but stopped short of promising a travel ban on the South American country.

‘We already have tough measures … to protect this country from new infections coming in from abroad,’ he said.

‘We are taking steps to do that in respect of the Brazilian variant.’

Meanwhile, a new study has found that Covid infection provides some immunity for at least five months, but people may still carry and transmit the virus.

The first report from Public Health England’s Siren study found that antibodies from past infection provide 83% protection against reinfection for at least five months.

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What is it like to come back from the dead?

It’s one of life’s unanswered questions: what happens after you die? Does Heaven exist — and do those on ‘the other side’ guide you back to life if it’s not your time?

The subject has fascinated theologians and scientists alike, with the latter attempting — yet not succeeding — to convince the former with their explanations of neurochemical responses in a dying brain.

A new series on Netflix, Surviving Death, speaks to people who are convinced they’ve seen what lies beyond. Here, JILL FOSTER speak to five survivors about their experiences…

A SHADOWY FIGURE LED ME BACK TO LIFE

Steven Robinson, 57, is a motivational speaker from Leeds. He says:

When I was 18 I was in involved in a motorbike accident that resulted in the loss of my right arm. My lungs were punctured, I suffered internal damage and lost a lot of blood.

The operation to try to save me took nine hours, but I later learned my heart had stopped and I’d ‘died’ three times on the operating table — I presume that’s when I had my near-death experience, although it may have happened during the coma I was in for several weeks.

The strange thing was that it was really very pleasant and, if I had the chance to do it all again, I would. It was pitch black, there was no light at all, but I remember such a feeling of peace and security, as if I were being protected by something or someone.

I’ve no idea how long I was in that place — possibly the edge of death — but, at some point, the ‘someone’ I’d sensed seemed to lead me back into consciousness.

Steven Robinson, 57, (pictured) claims a shadowy figure led him back to consciousness

What was really strange — and this did make me jump — was that when I opened my eyes from the coma, the figure who I instinctively knew had guided me was standing at the bottom of my bed. I couldn’t tell if it was male or female, it was just a shadowy figure in a human adult form and I thought I was imagining it.

I rubbed my eyes and even hid under the cover for a few seconds, convinced that when I came out, it would be gone. But it wasn’t.

It stayed with me for quite some months afterwards, even after I’d come home from hospital five weeks later — never saying anything but simply standing at the bottom of my bed — and I felt comforted by its presence.

I later learned this phenomenon is well known in spiritual circles as The Third Man — a usually unseen being that intervenes at critical moments to give comfort.

I’ve closed my mind to it now, so no longer see it, but for all I know it may still be there. That doesn’t scare me.

The nurses were quite worried because I seemed so happy afterwards. I don’t recall telling them about the figure, but my mum says that I had yelled that there was someone in my room.

Before the accident I’d been religious, always praying before bed, but now I felt I didn’t need to do that any more. I felt religion was a man-made construct, but that there was an afterlife and a spiritual world, and I’d made a connection.

The experience gave me so much confidence to do things in life that I wouldn’t have done before. I’d been afraid of flying and horses but, after the accident, I trained as a pilot and competed in dressage.

I was also super-shy as a youngster, but now I give motivational talks to hundreds of people at a time, and was awarded a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list in 2017.

The logical side of my brain says that what happened to me was the drugs or my brain playing tricks. But I truly believe it was more than that and that it transformed my life.

I COULD SEE MYSELF IN THE HOSPITAL BED

Molly Murray, 33, is a life coach specialising in helping people heal after trauma. She lives with husband Gordon, 39, a teacher and minister, and son Jack, five, in Ayrshire. She says:

When I was 15 and on a boating trip with my family, a speedboat driver wasn’t paying attention and crashed into the side of us. His boat came down on my head, causing severe traumatic brain injury.

I was airlifted by helicopter and put in an induced coma at the hospital, while specialists tried everything, but they couldn’t stop the inflammation on my brain and my family were told to expect the worst.

Molly Murray, 53, (pictured) claims she saw herself lying in a hospital bed through a light

Molly Murray, 53, (pictured) claims she saw herself lying in a hospital bed through a light

While in the coma I had one very intense experience of being drawn towards a bright, white light which seemed to be calling me forward. I wasn’t scared at all.

The light was circular and radiated out, like a vision you might imagine if you were about to see an angel. I was bathed in this light, and it felt hopeful and inspiring.

I’d always been religious and something told me that this was Heaven. I felt so uplifted.

Through the light, I could see my body on the hospital bed. I could see the details of the hospital room — the lamp, the curtains, the cabinet — and watched myself as I lay there.

Somehow, I knew that my body needed me to return.

I could have happily gone into the light, but I just knew it wasn’t the right time.

When I woke up, the details of the room were exactly as I’d seen them, even though there was no way I could really have seen them because I was in the coma.

It took me years to recover from the accident, having to learn to speak, walk and read again. But what happened that day gave me a deep peace about death.

Although I want to live a long time, I’m almost excited by what will happen when I do die.

MY DEAD GRANDMA SPOKE TO ME

Bill Fenton, 33, is a chef. He is married to Vicki, 27, and the couple live in Thurso, Highland. He says:

The last thing I remember before my near-death experience in 2019 is an anaesthetist telling me I needed to be put on a ventilator.

A couple of days earlier, my wife, Vicki, had phoned for an ambulance after I’d woken up in agony, coughing constantly and screaming in pain.

At the time, I was in remission from Hodgkin lymphoma — cancer of the white blood cells — but I’d developed pneumonia.

Bill Fenton, 33, (pictured) claims he saw his late grandmother appear from a bright light during a bone marrow transplant

Bill Fenton, 33, (pictured) claims he saw his late grandmother appear from a bright light during a bone marrow transplant

As I’d had a bone marrow transplant nine months earlier, doctors at my local hospital were so concerned that they had me flown by helicopter to a larger hospital, and my family were told it was unlikely I’d survive.

While unconscious on the ventilator, I remember seeing a very small, white light, like an LED bulb in the distance, getting closer and closer. I couldn’t tell if it was coming towards me or if I was going towards it, but suddenly I saw a figure.

It was my granny, Isobel, who had died three years earlier, and she was as clear as day. She was wearing tartan trousers and a blouse, and her hair and features were exactly the same as I remembered.

She said to me: ‘Not yet, it’s not your time.’

It was scary because I realised she was talking about dying, and it makes me emotional even now to think how close I came.

After that, everything went blank and the next thing I remember is waking up in hospital three days later, not knowing where I was. But the experience was so vivid I still remember it clearly and feel so thankful and lucky to be alive.

Ever since then, I’ve felt so much more positive about life and am no longer scared of death. I had to go into hospital several times afterwards and nearly died of sepsis, but I don’t recall another moment of seeing my granny.

Perhaps it was because I wasn’t put in a coma or I wasn’t as close to death.

Incredibly, despite being told that my cancer was incurable in 2017, I am now in remission and feel so confident about the coming year. My mum says that I’m a ‘walking miracle’.

SCENES FROM MY LIFE FLASHED BY ME

Stella Ralfini, 73, is a yoga teacher and natural health expert. She lives in Hertford and has one daughter. She says:

Moments before I got into the car, after leaving a party with my boyfriend, I had a flash of intuition: I was going to die.

I was only 16 and I’d never experienced a sensation like it before, but in that instant I was convinced that it was my time.

My boyfriend told me to stop being silly and, eventually, I got into the passenger seat so he could drive. But he was drunk and, moments later, he was racing against a friend when he skidded and crashed, and I was thrown from the vehicle.

They say your life flashes before you when you die, and that’s what happened to me.

Stella Ralfini, 73, (pictured) claims scenes from her life flashed before her eyes after being thrown from a car

Stella Ralfini, 73, (pictured) claims scenes from her life flashed before her eyes after being thrown from a car

A film of clips from my life played before my eyes in very quick succession — shots of me collecting spinach in the fields with my father who was a chef; a time when I was standing on a balcony crying as a little child in my first home in Finsbury Park, North London; being picked up and put on the shoulders of a Pearly King as we danced in the street.

I could see each shot so clearly and I remember them all distinctly, even today. Then I could feel myself looking down at my bloodied, lifeless body at the side of the road.

I wasn’t in pain, but could see that my boyfriend and our friends were all standing over me and crying.

Someone had called for an ambulance, but I could hear them saying, ‘She’s dead’. And I remember thinking: ‘I’m not dead, I’m not ready to die, I’m not even 17 yet, I want to get back into my body.’

I felt I had a choice about what I could do.

Then . . . whoosh! I was back in my body and being lifted into an ambulance.

I don’t recall much about what happened next, but I had some terrible injuries and still have the scars today.

Ever since that moment, I’ve felt completely blessed in life. I have a deep connection to the spirit world and feel spirits around me all the time, and call on their help when I need it.

Even though I didn’t want to die then, I don’t fear death.

I’ve had so many great opportunities that have come about through sheer luck, and I put it all down to that one night when I felt ‘protected’.

For instance, in my early 20s I walked into a job as PA to the Rolling Stones, simply by being in the right place at the right time.

Then, while three-and-a-half months pregnant with my daughter, I lost a lot of blood and the doctors thought I was losing her. I called on the spirits to help me and she survived.

And when I was diagnosed with melanoma at 70, doctors said it was the type of cancer that would kill me within a year. I recovered.

I’m grateful every day that whatever happened to me on the night of the car crash has helped me lead a remarkable life.

I WANTED TO GO BACK TO ‘HEAVEN’

Cemanthe McKenzie, 40, is a self-employed photographer. She lives in Ramsgate, Kent, with her husband Simon Hoult, 44, who works in retail and son Jamie, nearly two. She says:

When I was in my 20s, I was drugged by a stranger in a nightclub — I assume it was something like the date-rape drug Rohypnol, as I was completely knocked out and I hadn’t been drinking.

Thankfully, I got to hospital safely, but ever since I’ve experienced blackouts which doctors can’t explain. I’ve had countless tests, but no one has ever found anything wrong with me.

In 2013, I was delivering a seminar in a library when I felt a headache coming on. I excused myself to go to the loo and remember feeling weird and leaning forward. I suspected a blackout was coming. But what happened next had never happened before — or since.

Cemanthe McKenzie, 40, (pictured) blacked out in 2013 and claims to have found herself walking through a yellow-coloured field

Cemanthe McKenzie, 40, (pictured) blacked out in 2013 and claims to have found herself walking through a yellow-coloured field

I suddenly found myself walking through a warm, yellow-coloured field, with my arms trailing along the tops of the long grass behind me. I heard a group of people laughing and walking behind me.

Although I couldn’t see their faces, I knew they were friends, and we were walking towards a farmhouse at the end of the field.

I felt incredibly calm and warm as I walked towards the sun. The light was a beautiful golden colour. I was wearing a white outfit and had long flowing hair, even though in reality, my hair was short. I had no sense of time but knew I was completely content in this place.

Suddenly, I was back in the real world, my head was on someone’s lap and I was surrounded by paramedics. I heard the words, ‘She’s back!’ I remember crying and saying: ‘No, I need to go back, please, I need to go back.’ The real world felt all ‘wrong’.

I later found out that I’d been out cold for at least ten minutes. The paramedics also said my heart had stopped for a few seconds, but that I’d come round before they needed to intervene.

For months afterwards, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was meant to be in that other place, not here. It upset me, and I couldn’t help crying. I remember telling my mother I shouldn’t be here, which slightly worried her as she didn’t want me taking matters into my own hands to get back there.

Even now, occasionally, the feeling creeps back and I miss that feeling of total contentment.

I have no idea if what I experienced was my brain dying or if it was Heaven.

I’m not religious, but this has given me an inner reassurance. That place had the same all-encompassing warmth I imagine you would have felt in the womb. Now I have no fear of death.

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Priti Patel backs police quizzing people sitting on park benches in lockdown

Priti Patel today backed police to confront people on park benches, stop cars to check if passengers are all from the same household and knock on doors to hunt for parties as officers pledged to fine everyone breaching Boris Johnson’s lockdown laws.

The Home Secretary spoke out after Scotland Yard revealed officers will quiz citizens about why they are not shut away in their homes after four friends were fined £800 for travelling in the same car to McDonald’s in Northamptonshire.

And yesterday police in Maidenhead in Berkshire stopped drivers outside Tesco and handed them leaflets asking: ‘Why are you here?’ in a clampdown on non-essential travel – despite shopping for food being allowed. 

Ms Patel says that police should stop people who are outside to ask them why they are not at home and ‘explain to them they should not necessarily be out unless it was for key reasons’, adding that it is ‘right’ that the police confront people sitting on park benches. In the past two weeks more than 800 fines were issued for ‘egregious’ breaches of the coronavirus rules, she said.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘The police have done that [approached people on benches], let’s be very clear about this. Throughout this coronavirus pandemic, during the last lockdown, the police have been asking individuals why are they out and about, and should they be out and about, when the message right now is stay at home’. 

Ms Patel refused to speculate on whether there would be any easing of restrictions before March 31 as Boris Johnson quietly extended his third national lockdown and ducked Tory demands to guarantee ‘malicious’ rules are eased after his first review on February 15. 

‘I would love to say, of course we would love to see that and say that but that’s not for us to speculate,’ Ms Patel told LBC. ‘We all just need to absolutely whack this virus down, we’ve got to reduce the R factor… it’s a wretched, wretched disease, it really is. Right now the focus of the Government and the NHS is to get the jab into people’s arms.’

The Met say anyone caught not wearing masks in public buildings or being outside without a suitable reason will be given a fixed penalty notice without warning.  Anyone who cannot give a lawful excuse will be fined up to £6,400 and those caught without face coverings in necessary areas will also be slapped with an on the spot penalty notice of £200 minimum.  

Lockdown rules allow two people from separate households to meet in public and go for a walk. Any larger gatherings are banned and illegal with everyone needing a ‘good reason’ to be out of the home.

One West Midlands Police officer was even stopped by his own colleagues and asked where he was going with some critics asking if Birmingham had become 1970s East Germany and Chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council Martin Hewitt saying enforcing covid restrictions has ‘stretched’ policing resources to the limit.

As police pledged a zero-tolerance approach, it also emerged today:

  • Police enforcing the new Covid lockdown laws will fine people the first time they are caught not wearing face coverings or being outside without a suitable reason;
  • Approval of Covid vaccine batches is to be sped up drastically in a huge boost to the jab campaign. Amid growing concern over the slow pace of the rollout, sources said that testing would be cut from up to 20 days to just four;
  • But 24/7 vaccinations are set to be snubbed with NHS currently not planning to hand out jabs on Sundays despite desperate need;
  • London’s hospitals will be overwhelmed by Covid-19 in less than two weeks even in a ‘best’ case scenario, an official briefing reportedly warns; 
  • Schools now plan to hold their own mock exams after Gavin Williamson failed to explain how staff will be able to accurately grade GCSE and A-level students as teachers near-unanimously called for the Education Secretary to resign, it was revealed today. 

Priti Patel said that police should confront people on benches in the park if they are suspected to be breaking the rules as two women met in York on the first full day of lockdown yesterday

Hyde Park in London was busy yesterday and officers were seen approaching them to check their business

Hyde Park in London was busy yesterday and officers were seen approaching them to check their business

Ms Patel (pictured today) says that police should stop people who are outside to ask them why they are not at home and 'explain to them they should not necessarily be out unless it was for key reasons'

Ms Patel (pictured today) says that police should stop people who are outside to ask them why they are not at home and ‘explain to them they should not necessarily be out unless it was for key reasons’

Listeners were perplexed that the Home Secretary believed that police approaching people on park benches was the right thing to do

Listeners were perplexed that the Home Secretary believed that police approaching people on park benches was the right thing to do

Listeners were perplexed that the Home Secretary believed that police approaching people on park benches was the right thing to do

Five officers, several armed with batons, broke up the protest outside the Houses of Parliament, pinning this man to the ground

Five officers, several armed with batons, broke up the protest outside the Houses of Parliament, pinning this man to the ground

Four people who were caught travelling in the same car on their way to get a McDonald's breakfast were fined £800 for breaching coronavirus laws

Four people who were caught travelling in the same car on their way to get a McDonald’s breakfast were fined £800 for breaching coronavirus laws

Thames Valley Police has apologised for the behaviour of an officer who they said was 'a bit keen' in handing out leaflets in Maidenhead asking drivers 'why are you here today?'

Thames Valley Police has apologised for the behaviour of an officer who they said was ‘a bit keen’ in handing out leaflets in Maidenhead asking drivers ‘why are you here today?’

Protesters yelled as they were surrounded and arrested after officers asked them to leave area around Parliament Square.  One was pinned down and cuffed on the plinth under the statue of Mahatma Gandhi

Protesters yelled as they were surrounded and arrested after officers asked them to leave area around Parliament Square.  One was pinned down and cuffed on the plinth under the statue of Mahatma Gandhi

Police were forced to chase the protesters around Parliament Square after many refused to disperse this afternoon

Police were forced to chase the protesters around Parliament Square after many refused to disperse this afternoon

Police officers arrest a 92-year-old man outside Westminster Magistrates' Court, London, yesterday after the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was refused bail. The Met is yet to confirm the reason for the arrests as it pledged to get tough on covidiots, including those gathering in large groups

Police officers arrest a 92-year-old man outside Westminster Magistrates’ Court, London, yesterday after the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was refused bail. The Met is yet to confirm the reason for the arrests as it pledged to get tough on covidiots, including those gathering in large groups

Priti Patel refuses to rule out blanket ban on non-essential travel into and out of the UK as ministers are warned people will find it IMPOSSIBLE to get a pre-arrival Covid test in some countries 

Priti Patel today refused to rule out a blanket ban on non-essential travel into and out of the UK as ministers scramble to tighten up border controls. 

Asked about the idea, the Home Secretary said the government was ‘reviewing measures at the border’ and further announcements would be made in the coming days.

Boris Johnson confirmed earlier this week that a requirement for arrivals to have tested negative will be introduced, amid alarm at the spread of new variants around the world.

But the system – likely to mean people must test negative within 72 hours of travelling – is not expected to be unveiled until the end of the week or even later, with the implementation date unclear. Experts have warned there are serious practical problems, with the chances of getting access to a reliable test at short notice in countries such as Barbados ‘zero’.

Ms Patel suggested that the measures could go even further as she was pressed during a round of interviews this morning.

‘Further action is going to take place. The government is reviewing measures at the border… You will hear very shortly some of the changes that the government will be proposing.’

Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme if there would be a ban on non-essential travel, Ms Patel said Britons were already being advised to stay at home and only travel abroad within ‘strict rules’.

Pushed again on whether people will no longer be able to ‘come and go’ through airports, she said: ‘Our measures have always been under review when it comes to health measures at the border and also restricted measures on international travel.’   

 

Chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council Martin Hewitt hammered home the ramped up way police will be enforcing the lockdown rules.

He told the Telegraph: ‘Forces will continue to bear down on that very small minority who flagrantly and selfishly breach the regulations, such as those that organise unlicensed music events or parties.

‘This behaviour puts others at significant risk, and it’s right we patrol in potential hotspots and that officers are inquisitive when they see something out of the ordinary.

‘This will offer both reassurance to the public and act as a deterrent to those who think the measures don’t apply to them.’

Asked on BBC Breakfast whether there were enough resources to accommodate the new approach, Mr Hewitt said: ‘Of course this has stretched us, there’s no two ways (about it), we’ve been at this for 10 months.

‘Alongside this the police are also doing all the normal roles the police do to keep people safe so there’s no doubt this has stretched out resources and of course our people are tired in the way that everybody is tired.

‘This has been really difficult and I don’t make any bones around that.’

Mr Hewitt said that police resources were not ‘limitless’ and officers continued to prioritise their work, adding that it was ‘really, really important’ that people followed the Government guidance.  

His stern words followed a day when the Met detained 21 protesters at an anti-lockdown rally in Parliament Square, while a further seven were taken from a march outside Julian Assange’s bail hearing and face fines up to £6,400.

What is a ‘reasonable excuse’ for leaving home?

You must not leave or be outside of your home except where you have a ‘reasonable excuse’. This will be put in law. The police can take action against you if you leave home without a ‘reasonable excuse’, and issue you with a fine (Fixed Penalty Notice).

You can be given a Fixed Penalty Notice of £200 for the first offence, doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400.

A ‘reasonable excuse’ includes: 

  • Work – you can only leave home for work purposes where it is unreasonable for you to do your job from home
  • Volunteering – you can also leave home to provide voluntary or charitable services
  • Essential activities – you can leave home to buy things at shops or obtain services. You may also leave your home to do these things on behalf of a disabled or vulnerable person or someone self-isolating
  • Education and childcare – you can only leave home for education, registered childcare, and supervised activities for children where they are eligible to attend. 
  • Meeting others and care – you can leave home to visit people in your support bubble ( if you are legally permitted to form one), to provide informal childcare for children under 14 as part of a childcare bubble (for example, to enable parents to work), to provide care for disabled or vulnerable people
  • Exercise – you can continue to exercise alone, with one other person or with your household or support bubble, limited to once per day, and not outside your local area 
  • Medical reasons – you can leave home for a medical reason, including to get a COVID-19 test, for medical appointments and emergencies
  • Harm and compassionate visits – you can leave home to be with someone who is giving birth, to avoid injury or illness or to escape risk of harm (such as domestic abuse). 
  • You can also leave home to visit someone who is dying or someone in a care home (if permitted under care home guidance), hospice, or hospital, or to accompany them to a medical appointment
  • Animal welfare reasons – you can leave home for animal welfare reasons, such as to attend veterinary services for advice or treatment
  • Communal worship and life events – You can leave home to attend or visit a place of worship for communal worship, a funeral or event related to a death, a burial ground or a remembrance garden, or to attend a wedding ceremony.

There are further reasonable excuses. For example, you may leave home to fulfil legal obligations or to carry out activities related to buying, selling, letting or renting a residential property, or where it is reasonably necessary for voting in an election or referendum.

In Northampton, a group of friends were pulled over at 5am and slapped with a £800 penalty notice for being in the same car despite being from different households – breaching rules that came into force at midnight.

Meanwhile Thames Valley Police apologised after an officer who was ‘a bit keen’ handed out leaflets asking drivers to explain why they were out and about as part of a crackdown on travel in Maidenhead.

Motorists caught making repeated unnecessary journeys during the latest lockdown will have their number plates recorded by police ANPR cameras and then face being fined by officers who later turn up at their homes.

Officers will also visit the homes of Londoners who have recently returned from South Africa, where experts have identified a particularly virulent Covid strain which may be resistant to all current vaccines.

Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said policing was being ‘ramped up considerably’ as the government was now ‘frightened’ of the numbers of deaths and infection rates in London.

He said ten per cent of the Met force – more than 3,000 officers – were now off work due to the virus and that number was rising fast.

Explaining the new measures Ken Marsh told MailOnline: ‘If you have a medical reason for not wearing a mask, you now have to print off a clarification that proves you have an exemption.

‘This is a problem we’ve had all along, that before anyone could say they had a medical reason for not wearing a mask and we’d have to just accept it and walk off. That isn’t the case now.

‘Officers will pursue the questioning in the same manner but the person will then be given a certain amount of time – how long exactly hasn’t yet been finalised – with which to produce notice of exemption from a doctor.

‘While people are not required to carry this exemption with them at all times, it’s easier and speeds up the process if they do.

‘What I’ve actually called for is a badge that someone actually has to apply for first and then can wear to show that they have a proper medical exemption.

‘We’re not trying to be Big Brother about it but you can get on the tube and there’d be roughly a dozen people without face coverings who I would question have an exemption.’

Mr Marsh continued: ‘We are ramping up the work around vehicle movement. ANPR monitoring will be done across the board in relation to persistent vehicle users and if found they are flouting the law they will be fined. Officers will visit their homes to ask the nature of their journeys and if needs be those motorists will be fined.

‘We are also visiting the homes of anyone arriving from South Africa, back from holiday.

‘Police patrols are being stepped up all over London and from tomorrow a taskforce, made up of all the relevant authorities, including the local councils and police, will be going out in force over the next two weeks to ensure that non-essential businesses remain closed.’

Mr Marsh said any future anti-vaccine demonstrations – like those led by Piers Corbyn, brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – will be dealt with far more robustly.

That was evident yesterday when four people caught travelling in the same car on their way to get a McDonald’s breakfast were fined £800 for breaching coronavirus laws.

Police pulled over the vehicle at around 5am in Bedford Road, Northampton. The two men and two women claimed they were on their way to get a McDonald’s breakfast – even though the fast food restaurant did not open for another two hours.

Enquiries confirmed the four were not from the same household, so the journey breached lockdown rules which officially came into force at midnight.

As a result, their early-morning takeaway turned out way more expensive than planned when officers slapped them each with £200 fines.

Meanwhile anti-lockdown protesters were seen being chased through Westminster this afternoon before being pinned to the floor, handcuffed and warned they would be fined if they did not return home.

Mr Marsh said: ‘We are going to get a lot tougher on these sort of anti-vaccine protests from now on because not only is it disinformation it’s unlawful.

‘There will be a lot more policing around these groups now and far more robust action to be taken and arrests to be made.’

Despite rising numbers of police officers having to take time off with Covid-related issues, 200 Met cops are being drafted in to drive London Ambulances because of a shortage in the ambulance service.

Mr Marsh added: ‘Our numbers have now gone above 3,000 off sick – I mentioned that it was 1,300 only ten days ago so it shows how fast numbers are rising.

‘In fact it’s scary that numbers are going up at that speed. There are 32,112 officers in the Met – so more than ten per cent are either ill with Covid or having to self-isolate because of it.

‘Yet we are also now going to be providing 200 drivers to the London Ambulance Service.

‘We’ve got to perform these roles on top of daily policing and although we would never turn a blind eye to crime but we will have limited resources. This is all above and beyond the call of duty and it’s putting a huge strain on my colleagues.’

Council Covid wardens were also out in force across the country as the authorities vowed to fine mask-flouters or anyone out of the house without ‘good reason’ at least £200 on the spot. West Midlands Police has asked for permission to force entry into homes to break up parties.

Scotland Yard’s constables were filmed chasing protesters through Parliament Square before putting them in handcuffs as officers were heard telling people gathering illegally: ‘I’m going to issue you a fine if you don’t return home’. 21 people were arrested and are being taken into custody. They have not yet been fined.

People were pinned to the ground and cuffed – including on the plinths of the famous statues there including Mahatma Gandhi’s – before being put into vans after refusing to leave Westminster. 

The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency, which is responsible for the checks, is also to increase staffing in a bid to accelerate the mass vaccination programme

The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency, which is responsible for the checks, is also to increase staffing in a bid to accelerate the mass vaccination programme

 

A person in a mobility scooter passes a 'Thank you NHS Staff' sign on the sea front on Bournemouth Beach in Dorset

A person in a mobility scooter passes a ‘Thank you NHS Staff’ sign on the sea front on Bournemouth Beach in Dorset

A man walks across a deserted Sherlock Street in Birmingham city centre during new national lockdown measures

A man walks across a deserted Sherlock Street in Birmingham city centre during new national lockdown measures

Empty streets in Leeds, West Yorkshiure, on the second day of the national lockdown

Empty streets in Leeds, West Yorkshiure, on the second day of the national lockdown

The Tube was also largely deserted in central London this morning as millions were ordered to stay at home

The Tube was also largely deserted in central London this morning as millions were ordered to stay at home

Around two miles away Met officers arrested seven supporters of Julian Assange as he was denied bail at Westminster Magistrates’ Court this morning, including 92-year-old Eric Levy and several other pensioners. Protesters shouted ‘fascists’ at police taking them away.

Police state UK: Crime commissioner calls for law change to allow officers to force entry into homes of suspected rule-breakers 

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said he has urged the government to give officers power of entry, to help 'enforce the new regulations more easily'

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said he has urged the government to give officers power of entry, to help ‘enforce the new regulations more easily’ 

A police force wants powers to force entry into the homes of suspected Covid rule breakers. 

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson has urged the government to give officers power of entry, to help ‘enforce the new regulations more easily.’

Mr Jamieson said: ‘For the small minority of people who refuse entry to police officers and obstruct their work, the power of entry would seem to be a useful tool.

‘I have raised this issue with the policing minister previously and clarity on the power of entry would help police officers enforce the new Covid regulations more easily.’

Before Christmas, Mr Jamieson said officers would break up family celebrations if they flouted lockdown rules over the festive period. The police chief also warned about Hanukkah and Diwali celebrations.

But his cash-strapped force came under fire earlier this week after advertising for a new £74,000-a-year ‘fairness and belonging’ director to ‘oversee improved inclusive culture throughout the workplace’.

A Met spokesman said: ‘Seven people were detained for breaching Coronavirus regulations. They were later reported for consideration of a fixed penalty notice and ordered to leave the area.’

The hard-line from the Met came as England’s new lockdown laws were published and it was revealed they will be enforced until Easter on March 31 – not mid-February as Boris Johnson promised if the vaccine roll-out is successful.

Scotland Yard says anyone attending unlicensed music events or large illegal parties will now also be fined – not just the organisers of such events – and anyone ‘wearing masks where they should be and without good reason can expect to be fined – not reasoned with’.

Meanwhile West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson urged the government to give officers power of entry to homes, to help ‘enforce the new regulations more easily’ if there is an illegal party.

Fixed penalty notices of £200 will be issued for any first offence, with this doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400. Those holding, or involved in holding, an illegal gathering of more than 30 people risk a police-issued fine of £10,000.

Elsewhere, senior police have apologised for the behaviour of an officer who they said was ‘a bit keen’ in handing out leaflets asking drivers ‘why are you here?’ as part of a crackdown on travel during lockdown.

Residents in upmarket Maidenhead, Berks., were outraged to find their trips for shopping and exercise challenged by uniformed police, who distributed the leaflets.

The leaflet read: ‘Government restrictions require us to avoid ALL UNNECESSARY TRAVEL.

‘You should exercise no more than once daily. This should be by walking, running or cycling etc. from your home address. You should not be driving to a location away from your home to carry this out.

‘Please refrain from unnecessary travel until the restrictions have been lifted.’

However, bosses at Thames Valley Police have said the leaflets should not have been handed out by officers, who stopped all traffic on a bridge in the area.

Rosalind Bieber, who shared a picture of one of the leaflets online, said: ‘I got caught up in a big queue this morning at 9.30am, from the roundabout by the police station to the Berkeley’s site.

‘There were two police officers stopping every single car and asking where we were going. I was handed this leaflet as shown below and told I cannot shop at the Tesco in Taplow as I live in Maidenhead. They will be issuing fines from tomorrow, so be aware folks.’

Ms Bieber added: ‘If Tesco is where I do my regular food shop why should I then be told to shop at another supermarket.

‘I’m travelling two miles from an SL6 postcode to another SL6 postcode. I dislike Sainsbury’s so I won’t be going there. Not my fault that Tesco is two miles away, the one in Maidenhead closed down three months ago! Instead the police should be cracking down on those travelling on non essential journeys!’

More than 100 mourners attending the funeral of a friend who died from Covid-19 were sent home from a cemetery by police for breaking the coronavirus rules on gatherings.

The mourners arrived at the crematorium and cemetery in Slough, Berks., to pay their last respects to someone being buried during a funeral after dying from the pandemic virus.

Officers had to send the grieving people away, pointing out that no more than 30 people were allowed to gather for funerals under the regulations. The Slough crematorium was the setting for the funeral for Princess Margaret many years ago.

A spokesman for Slough Borough Council said: ‘We are warning residents that police will be called to the cemetery and crematorium if lockdown regulations are breached, following an incident earlier.

‘Police were called to the Stoke Road site, owned and operated by the council, after more than 100 people turned up for a burial, in clear breach of the lockdown regulations which require there to be only 30 people in attendance and socially distanced.

‘It is the first time police have been called to the cemetery because of a breach of the Covid regulations since the crisis began.’

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Covid lockdown England: Met Police arrest rule-breakers in London

Police today got tough on Covid lawbreakers, with 28 protesters arrested for flouting restrictions, four men fined £800 for travelling in the same car on their way to McDonald’s and officers even stopping motorists to ask ‘why are you here?’

The Met detained 21 demonstrators at an anti-lockdown rally in Parliament Square this afternoon, while a further seven were hauled away from a march outside Julian Assange’s bail hearing and now face fines of up to £6,400.

In Northampton, a group of friends were pulled over at 5am and slapped with a £800 penalty notice for being in the same car despite being from different households – breaching rules that came into force at midnight.

Meanwhile Thames Valley Police apologised after an officer who was ‘a bit keen’ handed out leaflets asking drivers to explain why they were out and about as part of a crackdown on travel in Maidenhead.

The Met rolled out some of the toughest anti-Covid measures today, announcing anyone caught not wearing a face mask in a shop or on public transport would be fined £200.

But the penalties will not be given on the spot and people will be allowed a short time frame with which to produce a doctor’s letter.

The clampdown on people leaving home without ‘good reason’ came as Boris Johnson quietly extended his third national lockdown until March 31 as his new Covid law was published and he ducked Tory demands to guarantee ‘malicious’ rules are eased after his first review on February 15.

The Prime Minister had told the Commons ahead of the vote on the measure tonight he has ‘no choice’ but to clamp down on those flouting the rules to curb the spread of the mutant Covid strain sweeping the country.

He said: ‘We have no choice but to return to a national lockdown in England with similar measures being adopted by the devolved administrations, so we can control this new variant until we can take the most likely victims out of its path with vaccines.’

Tory MPs are alarmed the regulations have extended the expiry date of the tiers system from February 22 to March 31 – despite the PM claiming the system can start to be eased from mid-February if the vaccine rollout goes well.

As police pledged to get tough to stop the spread of Covid, it also emerged today:

  • Boris Johnson desperately tries to win over furious Tory MPs as he defends national lockdown and insists he had ‘no choice’ but to shut down England; 
  • Matt Hancock was accused of snubbing an offer by pharmacists to help the biggest vaccination drive in history – and it emerged doses of the vaccine will not be delivered to GPs on a Sunday; 
  • World Health Organization refuses to back UK’s move to space Pfizer Covid vaccine doses by 12 weeks because there is no proof it will work;
  • More chaos in education as BTEC students are ‘left in limbo’ over exams starting today as A-Levels and GCSEs tests are finally axed.

Four people who were caught travelling in the same car on their way to get a McDonald’s breakfast were fined £800 for breaching coronavirus laws

Protesters yelled as they were surrounded and arrested after officers asked them to leave area around Parliament Square.  One was pinned down and cuffed on the plinth under the statue of Mahatma Gandhi

Protesters yelled as they were surrounded and arrested after officers asked them to leave area around Parliament Square.  One was pinned down and cuffed on the plinth under the statue of Mahatma Gandhi

Police officers arrest a 92-year-old man outside Westminster Magistrates’ Court, London, today after the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was refused bail. The Met is yet to confirm the reason for the arrests as it pledged to get tough on covidiots, including those gathering in large groups

This woman screamed as she was taken away after repeated warnings from officers to clear the area outside Westminster Magistrates' Court

This woman screamed as she was taken away after repeated warnings from officers to clear the area outside Westminster Magistrates’ Court

Five officers, several armed with batons, broke up the protest outside the Houses of Parliament, pinning this man to the ground

Five officers, several armed with batons, broke up the protest outside the Houses of Parliament, pinning this man to the ground

Police were forced to chase the protesters around Parliament Square after many refused to desperse this afternoon

Police were forced to chase the protesters around Parliament Square after many refused to desperse this afternoon

Police officers detain a demonstrator at Parliament Square during an anti-lockdown protest that breached Covid lockdown rules

Police officers detain a demonstrator at Parliament Square during an anti-lockdown protest that breached Covid lockdown rules

This woman was searched and then taken away as the Met said it would come down hard on anyone outside without a 'good excuse'

This woman was searched and then taken away as the Met said it would come down hard on anyone outside without a ‘good excuse’

This man was led away as his fellow protesters shouted 'fascists' at officers sent in to break up the protest in Parliament Square as new lockdown rules became law

This man was led away as his fellow protesters shouted ‘fascists’ at officers sent in to break up the protest in Parliament Square as new lockdown rules became law

Thames Valley Police has apologised for the behaviour of an officer who they said was 'a bit keen' in handing out leaflets in Maidenhead asking drivers 'why are you here today?'

Thames Valley Police has apologised for the behaviour of an officer who they said was ‘a bit keen’ in handing out leaflets in Maidenhead asking drivers ‘why are you here today?’

Boris Johnson speaking in the Commons today new lockdown legally came into force this morning, ensuring people can't leave home without a 'reasonable excuse' or face fines of £200 upwards

Boris Johnson speaking in the Commons today new lockdown legally came into force this morning, ensuring people can’t leave home without a ‘reasonable excuse’ or face fines of £200 upwards

The regulations underpinning the drastic curbs have come into effect in England after the PM said he was left with 'no choice' due to the mutant strain running rampant

The new law removes a swathe of exemptions from the old Tier 4 rules, such as for outdoor sports  and zoos, and applies the stringent rules to the whole of England

The regulations underpinning the drastic curbs have come into effect in England after the PM said he was left with ‘no choice’ due to the mutant strain running rampant

Motorists who caught making repeated unnecessary journeys during the latest lockdown will have their number plates recorded by police ANPR cameras and then face being fined by officers who later turn up at their homes.

Officers will also visit the homes of Londoners who have recently returned to Britain from South Africa, where experts have identified a particularly virulent Covid bug which may be resistant to all current vaccines.

Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said policing was being ‘ramped up considerably’ as the government was now ‘frightened’ of the numbers of deaths and infection rates in London.

He said that ten per cent of the Met force – more than 3,000 officers – were now off work due to the virus and that number was rising fast.

Explaining the new measures Ken Marsh told MailOnline: ‘If you have a medical reason for not wearing a mask, you now have to print off a clarification that proves you have an exemption. This is a problem we’ve had all along, that before anyone could say they had a medical reason for not wearing a mask and we’d have to just accept it and walk off. That isn’t the case now.

‘Officers will pursue the questioning in the same manner but the person will then be given a certain amount of time – how long exactly hasn’t yet been finalised – with which to produce notice of exemption from a doctor.

‘While people are not required to carry this exemption with them at all times, it’s easier and speeds up the process if they do. What I’ve actually called for is a badge that someone actually has to apply for first and then can wear to show that they have a proper medical exemption.

‘We’re not trying to be Big Brother about it but you can get on the tube and there’d be roughly a dozen people without face coverings who I would question have an exemption.’

Mr Marsh continued: ‘We are ramping up the work around vehicle movement. ANPR monitoring will be done across the board in relation to persistent vehicle users and if found they are flouting the law they will be fined. Officers will visit their homes to ask the nature of their journeys and if needs be those motorists will be fined.

‘We are also visiting the homes of anyone arriving from South Africa, back from holiday.

What is a ‘reasonable excuse’ for leaving home?

You must not leave or be outside of your home except where you have a ‘reasonable excuse’. This will be put in law. The police can take action against you if you leave home without a ‘reasonable excuse’, and issue you with a fine (Fixed Penalty Notice).

You can be given a Fixed Penalty Notice of £200 for the first offence, doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400.

A ‘reasonable excuse’ includes: 

  • Work – you can only leave home for work purposes where it is unreasonable for you to do your job from home
  • Volunteering – you can also leave home to provide voluntary or charitable services
  • Essential activities – you can leave home to buy things at shops or obtain services. You may also leave your home to do these things on behalf of a disabled or vulnerable person or someone self-isolating
  • Education and childcare – you can only leave home for education, registered childcare, and supervised activities for children where they are eligible to attend. 
  • Meeting others and care – you can leave home to visit people in your support bubble ( if you are legally permitted to form one), to provide informal childcare for children under 14 as part of a childcare bubble (for example, to enable parents to work), to provide care for disabled or vulnerable people
  • Exercise – you can continue to exercise alone, with one other person or with your household or support bubble, limited to once per day, and not outside your local area 
  • Medical reasons – you can leave home for a medical reason, including to get a COVID-19 test, for medical appointments and emergencies
  • Harm and compassionate visits – you can leave home to be with someone who is giving birth, to avoid injury or illness or to escape risk of harm (such as domestic abuse). 
  • You can also leave home to visit someone who is dying or someone in a care home (if permitted under care home guidance), hospice, or hospital, or to accompany them to a medical appointment
  • Animal welfare reasons – you can leave home for animal welfare reasons, such as to attend veterinary services for advice or treatment
  • Communal worship and life events – You can leave home to attend or visit a place of worship for communal worship, a funeral or event related to a death, a burial ground or a remembrance garden, or to attend a wedding ceremony.

There are further reasonable excuses. For example, you may leave home to fulfil legal obligations or to carry out activities related to buying, selling, letting or renting a residential property, or where it is reasonably necessary for voting in an election or referendum.

‘Police patrols are being stepped up all over London and from tomorrow a taskforce, made up of all the relevant authorities, including the local councils and police, will be going out in force over the next two weeks to ensure that non-essential businesses remain closed.’

Mr Marsh said that any future anti-vaccine demonstrations – like those led by Piers Corbyn, brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – will be dealt with far more robustly.

That was evident today when four people caught travelling in the same car on their way to get a McDonald’s breakfast were fined £800 for breaching coronavirus laws.

Police pulled over the vehicle at around 5am in Bedford Road, Northampton. The two men and two women claimed they were on their way to get a McDonald’s breakfast – even though the fast food restaurant did not open for another two hours.

Enquiries confirmed the four were not from the same household, so the journey breached lockdown rules which officially came into force at midnight.

As a result, their early-morning takeaway turned out way more expensive than planned when officers slapped them each with £200 fines.

Meanwhile anti-lockdown protesters were seen being chased through Westminster this afternoon before being pinned to the floor, handcuffed and warned they would be fined if they did not return home.

Mr Marsh said: ‘We are going to get a lot tougher on these sort of anti-vaccine protests from now on because not only is it disinformation it’s unlawful. There will be a lot more policing around these groups now and far more robust action to be taken and arrests to be made.’

Despite rising numbers of police officers having to take time off with Covid-related issues, 200 Met cops are being drafted in to drive London Ambulances because of a shortage in the ambulance service.

Mr Marsh added: ‘Our numbers have now gone above 3,000 off sick – I mentioned that it was 1,300 only ten days ago so it shows how fast numbers are rising.

‘In fact it’s scary that numbers are going up at that speed. There are 32,112 officers in the Met – so more than ten per cent are either ill with Covid or having to self-isolate because of it.

‘Yet we are also now going to be providing 200 drivers to the London Ambulance Service.

‘We’ve got to perform these roles on top of daily policing and although we would never turn a blind eye to crime but we will have limited resources. This is all above and beyond the call of duty and it’s putting a huge strain on my colleagues.’    

Council Covid wardens were also out in force across the country today as the authorities vowed to fine mask-flouters or anyone out of the house without ‘good reason’ at least £200 on the spot. West Midlands Police has asked for permission to force entry into homes to break up parties.

Scotland Yard’s constables were filmed chasing protesters through Parliament Square today before putting them in handcuffs as officers were heard telling people gathering illegally: ‘I’m going to issue you a fine if you don’t return home’. 21 people were arrested and are being taken into custody. They have not yet been fined. 

People were pinned to the ground and cuffed – including on the plinths of the famous statues there including Mahatma Gandhi’s – before being put into vans after refusing to leave Westminster. 

Around two miles away Met officers arrested seven supporters of Julian Assange as he was denied bail at Westminster Magistrates’ Court this morning, including 92-year-old Eric Levy and several other pensioners. Protesters shouted ‘fascists’ at police taking them away. 

A Met spokesman said: ‘Seven people were detained for breaching Coronavirus regulations. They were later reported for consideration of a fixed penalty notice and ordered to leave the area’.

The hard-line from the Metropolitan Police came as England’s new lockdown laws were published and it was revealed they will be enforced until Easter on March 31 – not mid-February as Boris Johnson promised if the vaccine roll-out is successful. 

Scotland Yard says that anyone attending unlicensed music events or large illegal parties will now also be fined – not just the organisers of such events – and anyone ‘wearing masks where they should be and without good reason can expect to be fined – not reasoned with’. 

Meanwhile West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson has urged the government to give officers power of entry to homes, to help ‘enforce the new regulations more easily’ if there is an illegal party. 

Fixed penalty notices of £200 will be issued for any first offence, with this doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400. Those holding, or involved in holding, an illegal gathering of more than 30 people risk a police-issued fine of £10,000.            

A bearded man in a cap, tracksuit and Batman scarf is put in handcuffs during an anti lockdown protest at Parliament Square

A bearded man in a cap, tracksuit and Batman scarf is put in handcuffs during an anti lockdown protest at Parliament Square

Supporters of Julian Assange were also taken away after police said they ignored repeated warnings not to gather

Supporters of Julian Assange were also taken away after police said they ignored repeated warnings not to gather

Supporters of Julian Assange were also taken away after police said they ignored repeated warnings not to gather 

The Met had also said that it would act if there was a protest in Parliament Square and duly sent in officers to break it up

The Met had also said that it would act if there was a protest in Parliament Square and duly sent in officers to break it up

Elsewhere, senior police have apologised for the behaviour of an officer who they said was ‘a bit keen’ in handing out leaflets asking drivers ‘why are you here?’ as part of a crackdown on travel during lockdown.

Residents in upmarket Maidenhead, Berks., were outraged to find their trips for shopping and exercise challenged by uniformed police, who distributed the leaflets.

The leaflet read: ‘Government restrictions require us to avoid ALL UNNECESSARY TRAVEL.

‘You should exercise no more than once daily. This should be by walking, running or cycling etc. from your home address. You should not be driving to a location away from your home to carry this out.

‘Please refrain from unnecessary travel until the restrictions have been lifted.’

However, bosses at Thames Valley Police have said the leaflets should not have been handed out by officers, who stopped all traffic on a bridge in the area.

Rosalind Bieber, who shared a picture of one of the leaflets online, said: ‘I got caught up in a big queue this morning at 9.30am, from the roundabout by the police station to the Berkeley’s site.

‘There were two police officers stopping every single car and asking where we were going. I was handed this leaflet as shown below and told I cannot shop at the Tesco in Taplow as I live in Maidenhead. They will be issuing fines from tomorrow, so be aware folks.’

Ms Bieber added: ‘If Tesco is where I do my regular food shop why should I then be told to shop at another supermarket.

‘I’m travelling two miles from an SL6 postcode to another SL6 postcode. I dislike Sainsbury’s so I won’t be going there. Not my fault that Tesco is two miles away, the one in Maidenhead closed down three months ago! Instead the police should be cracking down on those travelling on non essential journeys!’

More than 100 mourners attending the funeral of a friend who died from Covid-19 were sent home from a cemetery by police for breaking the coronavirus rules on gatherings.

The mourners arrived at the crematorium and cemetery in Slough, Berks., to pay their last respects to someone being buried during a funeral after dying from the pandemic virus.

Officers had to send the grieving people away, pointing out that no more than 30 people were allowed to gather for funerals under the regulations. The Slough crematorium was the setting for the funeral for Princess Margaret many years ago.

A spokesman for Slough Borough Council said: ‘We are warning residents that police will be called to the cemetery and crematorium if lockdown regulations are breached, following an incident earlier today.

‘Police were called to the Stoke Road site, owned and operated by the council, after more than 100 people turned up for a burial, in clear breach of the lockdown regulations which require there to be only 30 people in attendance and socially distanced.

‘It is the first time police have been called to the cemetery because of a breach of the Covid regulations since the crisis began.’

Boris Johnson’s new legislation means that the public must stay at home unless they have a ‘reasonable excuse’, must travel for critical work, daily exercise and cannot meet with more than one person outside their household as the arduous new third lockdown begins. 

The regulations underpinning the drastic lockdown curbs have come into effect in England after the PM said he was left with ‘no choice’ due to the mutant strain running rampant.    

A person in a mobility scooter passes a 'Thank you NHS Staff' sign on the sea front on Bournemouth Beach in Dorset

A person in a mobility scooter passes a ‘Thank you NHS Staff’ sign on the sea front on Bournemouth Beach in Dorset

People wearing a face mask or covering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, sit and talk on a bench in York. The rules state only two people from different households can meet until April

People wearing a face mask or covering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, sit and talk on a bench in York. The rules state only two people from different households can meet until April

A man walks across a deserted Sherlock Street in Birmingham city centre during new national lockdown measures

A man walks across a deserted Sherlock Street in Birmingham city centre during new national lockdown measures

Empty streets in Leeds, West Yorkshiure, on the second day of the national lockdown

Empty streets in Leeds, West Yorkshiure, on the second day of the national lockdown

The Tube was also largely deserted in central London this morning as millions were ordered to stay at home

The Tube was also largely deserted in central London this morning as millions were ordered to stay at home

A couple trudge through the snow in Biggin Hill Kent this morning as people enjoyed their daily exercise

A couple trudge through the snow in Biggin Hill Kent this morning as people enjoyed their daily exercise

The regulations enforcing a national lockdown in England came into effect at 00.01 on Wednesday, as new figures suggested one in 50 people had coronavirus last week.

Data from the Office for National Statistics suggested 1.1 million people in private households in England had Covid-19 between December 27 and January 2.

England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said people must take the ‘stay at home’ rules seriously as he warned that the country faced a ‘really serious emergency’.

His comments came as the number of daily confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK topped 60,000 for the first time, while a further 830 people died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Tuesday.

But in a sign of progress, the Prime Minister said that more than 1.3 million people have been vaccinated against the virus across the UK so far, including 23% of all the over 80s in England.

Police state UK: Crime commissioner calls for law change to allow officers to force entry into homes of suspected rule-breakers 

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said he has urged the government to give officers power of entry, to help 'enforce the new regulations more easily'

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said he has urged the government to give officers power of entry, to help ‘enforce the new regulations more easily’ 

A police force wants powers to force entry into the homes of suspected Covid rule breakers. 

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson has urged the government to give officers power of entry, to help ‘enforce the new regulations more easily.’

Mr Jamieson said: ‘For the small minority of people who refuse entry to police officers and obstruct their work, the power of entry would seem to be a useful tool.

‘I have raised this issue with the policing minister previously and clarity on the power of entry would help police officers enforce the new Covid regulations more easily.’

Before Christmas, Mr Jamieson said officers would break up family celebrations if they flouted lockdown rules over the festive period. The police chief also warned about Hanukkah and Diwali celebrations.

But his cash-strapped force came under fire earlier this week after advertising for a new £74,000-a-year ‘fairness and belonging’ director to ‘oversee improved inclusive culture throughout the workplace’. 

Prof Whitty, speaking alongside Mr Johnson at a Downing Street press conference on Tuesday evening, said the vaccine timetable was ‘realistic but not easy’, and that the NHS would have to use ‘multiple channels’ to get it out.

But questions have been raised over the roll-out, with a pharmacy chief questioning why the NHS is ‘scrabbling around’ for vaccinators when his industry was offering to help.

Simon Dukes, chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Negotiating Services Committee, told The Telegraph: ‘Rather than scrabbling around trying to find retired GPs and nurses and anyone who has possibly dated skills, you’ve got an army of thousands of pharmacists up and down the country who administer the flu jab every winter.

‘We’ve been telling the NHS that we’re ready, willing and desperate to help. But we’ve been met by a de facto silence.’

Meanwhile The Times reported that two million doses of the Pfizer vaccines held back for boosters would be distributed in the next fortnight.  

Police chiefs have warned that enforcing the third national lockdown will increase the load on officers, whose numbers are already stretched because of the pandemic.

Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said harsh restrictions will ‘put a lot of pressure’ on constables in London. 

Mr Marsh revealed that some 1,300 Scotland Yard officers were off sick or self-isolating in the capital.

Meanwhile John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said that some forces in England had as much as 15 per cent of staff off.

Asked about how lockdown enforcement would affect officers, Mr Marsh said: ‘It will obviously create a lot of pressure on us because we have a lot more officers off this time than we did back in March.

‘Our numbers have rocketed in terms of officers with Covid and officers isolating and we envisage that getting worse.

‘So the pressure is on my colleagues who are still out there to maintain the same level that they did before.’

On Monday night Boris Johnson announced a seven-week lockdown to curb the surge of coronavirus being driven by a highly transmissible new variant of the disease. 

A deserted Regent Street in London yesterday as millions more worked from home again and schools all shut for seven weeks

A deserted Regent Street in London yesterday as millions more worked from home again and schools all shut for seven weeks

Police officers chat with members of the public on patrol around the Barton Hill area

Police officers chat with members of the public on patrol around the Barton Hill area

Police fine group of 11 hikers who breached Covid rules to drive more than 150 miles from London to Peak District after one of them crashed their car 

A group of 11 hikers who drove more than 150 miles from London to the Peak District have been fined for breaching coronavirus rules after one of them crashed their car. Pictured: The car

A group of 11 hikers who drove more than 150 miles from London to the Peak District have been fined for breaching coronavirus rules after one of them crashed their car. Pictured: The car

A group of 11 hikers who drove more than 150 miles from London to the Peak District have been fined for breaching coronavirus rules after one of them crashed their car.  

The men had travelled from Harrow, North London in three vehicles on Monday, ahead of Boris Johnson announcing a third nationwide lockdown for England which came into force today.

They were caught flouting Covid-19 laws by police near Bamford, Derbyshire after one driver flipped his car on the A6013 following a day in the countryside.   

The men, who were embarking on the three-hour journey home, were each handed £200 penalties for travelling between Tier Four areas.

Derbyshire Police also seized one of the three vehicles due to it being uninsured and sent its owner home on a train. 

At the time, London was under England’s highest Tier Four restrictions which had banned people from embarking on non-essential travel out of the city. 

 

England will revert from a tiered system of restrictions which has seen the country following different degrees of measures.

Mr Apter warned that blanket restrictions were clear to grasp, which means officers would be less lenient to flouters. 

‘People should expect to see more enforcement as a consequence because there really are no excuses for not knowing the rules this time,’ he said.

He added: ‘The majority of the public will do what is expected of them, but I think there is a real issue over virus and lockdown fatigue. 

‘There is a real frustration and the police often deal with the sharp end of that as people are angry when challenged.’

Those holding, or involved in holding, an illegal gathering of more than 30 people risk a police-issued fine of £10,000. 

The Prime Minister concluded his gloomy televised address with a ray of hope, heralding the ‘biggest vaccination rollout in our history’. 

Ministers hope that by mid-February, all care home residents, extremely vulnerable, over-75s and frontline health workers will have received the jab.

Police top brass are also calling for officers to get the vaccine. 

Mr Marsh claimed: ‘It would appear that policing has been airbrushed out of any conversation in relation to protecting my colleagues, which I find quite incredible considering they are on the front line.

‘They are the one group of people other than the National Health Service that actually have to go to work and have to be out there with the public, every day, 24 hours a day.

‘It’s just amazing that no consideration whatsoever has been given to vaccinating police.’  

Mr Apter has also called for officers to be prioritised after society’s most vulnerable groups and NHS workers have been given the jab.

He wrote in the Daily Telegraph: ‘Without the vaccine, there is a real danger that more officers will contract the virus.

‘As growing numbers self-isolate or report sick with the virus, then the police service begins to struggle to do what the public fully expects of it.

‘Some forces are already starting to report up to per cent of their officers off sick or self-isolating. This is getting worse and is simply not sustainable.’

Mr Apter, whose organisation represents 130,000 officers, said the ‘last thing the public want is to call 999 in their hour of need, only to find we are too short of officers to be able to respond’. 

A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘It’s wrong to suggest that police don’t have the resources they need – absence rates remain low nationally and we have supported the police throughout the pandemic, including providing an additional £30million in October for enforcement of coronavirus regulations.

‘Police will continue to engage, explain, encourage and finally enforce where this is necessary to save lives.’ 

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Femail reveals the alternative apps and services offering groceries and essentials within 24 hours

Supermarket websites have been strained after Boris Johnson announced the third national lockdown on Monday with shoppers racing to book delivery slots.

Both the Sainsbury’s and Tesco apps reported problems due to surging demand, while some shoppers took to Twitter to reveal they were 4,864 in the queue for an Ocado shop. 

Shoppers at some supermarkets saw empty shelves last night and today, although chains insisted they had good availability and regular deliveries to their stores.

But many savvy shoppers will be able to get their hands on groceries in 24 hours or less, with some able to pick them up in under an hour. Here, FEMAIL reveals how to get a rapid delivery of groceries to your door. Deliveroo (pictured) who work with Aldi, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s among others deliver in less than an hour

It follows chaos before the first lockdown in March when customers started panic buying items such as toilet roll despite supermarkets urging people to be sensible.

But many savvy shoppers will be able to get their hands on groceries in 24 hours or less, with some able to pick them up in under an hour.

Here, FEMAIL reveals how to get a rapid delivery of groceries to your door.

DELIVEROO

Delivery time: An hour or less  

Deliveroo has national UK coverage with on-demand delivery partnerships from Co-op, Aldi, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Majestic Wine, Farmdrop, Daylesford Organic, Wholefoods, as well as dozens of local convenience stores and garages.

The food is delivered from a store local to the user, so time varies depending on how close you live to the shop. 

UBEREATS 

Delivery time: An hour or less 

UberEats has a dedicated ‘essentials’ tab with Sainsburys and Nisa Local among the shops signed up.

There are more than 600 convenience stores signed up to the app nationwide, with items including eggs, milk and meat available. 

UberEats has a dedicated 'essentials' tab with Sainsburys and Nisa Local among the shops signed up. There are more than 600 convenience stores signed up to the app nationwide, with items including eggs, milk and meat available.

UberEats has a dedicated ‘essentials’ tab with Sainsburys and Nisa Local among the shops signed up. There are more than 600 convenience stores signed up to the app nationwide, with items including eggs, milk and meat available.

BOTHER 

Wait time: Next day delivery

Bother, a new delivery service for non-perishable household items, offers free next day delivery for shops more than £40, but there is no minimum spent.  

During the first wave of COVID-19, Bother expedited its planned launch to offer essential supplies to key workers and the NHS in an effort to relieve pressure where it was needed most, now it’s launched nationwide.

Items include toilet roll, laundry detergent, oils, tinned food, dry goods. pasta, cereal, cooking sauces, baking ingredients and hundreds more. 

Bother, a new delivery service for non-perishable household items, offers free next day delivery for shops more than £40, but there is no minimum spent.

Bother, a new delivery service for non-perishable household items, offers free next day delivery for shops more than £40, but there is no minimum spent.

SAINSBURY’S  CHOP CHOP 

Delivery time: An hour or less 

Sainsbury’s Chop Chop lets shoppers buy 20 items which will be delivered in 60 minutes or less in selected areas of Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford, Reading and Sheffield.

Options include eggs, fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, alcohol and over the counter medicine. Delivery is £4.99. 

As well as being available on Deliveroo and UberEats, Sainsbury's  has it's own app - Chop Chop - which lets shoppers buy 20 items which will be delivered in 60 minutes or less in selected areas of Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford, Reading and Sheffield

As well as being available on Deliveroo and UberEats, Sainsbury’s  has it’s own app – Chop Chop – which lets shoppers buy 20 items which will be delivered in 60 minutes or less in selected areas of Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford, Reading and Sheffield

VISUALPING 

Savvy shoppers are using an app that tracks supermarket websites to jump their way to the start of the queue to avoid waiting weeks for a delivery slot.     

Brits have signed up to Visualping, which was developed by engineers in Canada, to get alerts when Tesco, Ocado, Morrisons and Waitrose update their delivery times. 

BEELIVERY 

Delivery time: 15 minutes to an hour

Delivering across the country in less than an hour with a minimum spend of £12 using local, crowd-sourced drivers, Beelivery offers snacks, oven pizzas, milk and dairy – as well as health items, tobacco and baby items. 

VEGETARIAN EXPRESS 

Delivery time: Next day   

Vegetarian Express, the UK’s premier specialist vegan and vegetarian food supplier to chefs, has launched a new website, Vegex – featuring a range of over 700 chef-quality plant-based proteins, world ingredients, and store cupboard staples, available for delivery to households. 

Every product has been tried and tested in professional kitchens, and much of the professional range is unavailable to buy in retail stores – bringing restaurant quality food to homes. 

AMAZON FRESH 

Delivery time: Less than 24 hours

Shopping from Amazon Fresh and Morrisons is available for Prime members in selected postcodes across the UK with delivery slots sometimes less than an hour away but available to book up to 72 hours in advance. 

Items include eggs, milks and fresh goods as well as  meats, seafood, dairy, frozen items, and household essentials.

Shopping from Amazon Fresh and Morrisons is available for Prime members in selected postcodes across London and the south east with delivery slots sometimes less than an hour away but available to book up to 24 hours in advance.

Shopping from Amazon Fresh and Morrisons is available for Prime members in selected postcodes across London and the south east with delivery slots sometimes less than an hour away but available to book up to 24 hours in advance.

POSTCODES WHERE AMAZON FRESH IS AVAILABLE  

 IG2

IG3

IG4

IG5

IG11

N1

N1C

N4

N5

N6

N7

N8

N9

N10

N11

N12

N13

N14

N15

N16

N17

N18

N19

N21

N22

NW1

NW3

NW5

NW6

NW8

NW11

RM8

RM9

RM10

RM13

SE1

SE2

SE3

SE4

SE6

SE7

SE8

SE9

SE10

SE11

SE12

SE13

SE14

SE15

KT20

KT21

KT22

SE21

SE22

SE23

SE24

SE25

SE26

SE27

SM1     

TW2 

TW9 

 SE16

SE18

SE28

SW1A

SW1E

SW1H

SW1P

SW1V

SW1W

SW1X

SW1Y

SW3

SW5

SW6

SW7

SW10

W1A

W1B

W1C

W1D

W1F

W1G

W1H

W1J

W1K

W1S

W1T

W1U

W1W

W2

W6

W8

W9

W10

W11

W12

W14

WC1A

WC1B

WC1E

WC1H

WC1N

WC1R

WC1V

WC1X

WC2A

WC2B

WC2E

WC2H

WC2N

WC2R

KT19

SE5

SE17

SE19

SE20

SW14

SW15

SW16

SW17

TW1 

TW12 

 GU10

GU11

GU12

GU14

GU15

GU16

GU17

GU18

GU19

GU20

GU21

GU22

GU23

GU24

GU25

GU46

GU47

GU51

GU52

KT14

KT15

KT16

RG12

RG21

RG22

RG24

RG27

RG29

RG40

RG41

RG42

RG45

SL5

TW20

CR0

CR2

CR4

CR5

CR7

CR8

CR9

KT1

KT2

KT3

KT4

KT5

KT6

KT7

KT8

KT9

KT10

KT11

SM2

SM3

SM4

SM5

SM6

SM7

SW18

SW19

SW20

AL1

AL2

AL3

AL4

AL5

AL10

EN4

EN5

HA3

HA7

HA8

HP1

HP2

HP3

HP4

HP5

HP6

HP23

LU1

LU2

LU3

LU4

LU5

LU6

LU7

N2

N3

N20

NW4

NW7

NW9

WD3

WD4

WD5

WD6

WD7

WD17

WD18

WD19

WD23

WD24

WD25

GU1

GU2

GU3

GU4

GU7

GU8

GU9

KT12

KT17

KT18

SW2

SW4

SW8

SW9

SW11

SW12

SW13

TW10

TW11

WAITROSE RAPID

Delivery time: Two hours or less

Waitrose Rapid enables shoppers to have up to 25 grocery items delivered within two hours or less or on the same day, and is currently available in London, Bath and Hove. 

Items available include fresh fruit and berries, fresh herbs, milks, eggs and dairy as well as pharmacy and toiletries options and frozen food and ready meals.

Waitrose Rapid enables shoppers to have up to 25 grocery items delivered within two hours or less or on the same day, and is currently available in London, Bath and Hove. Items available include fresh fruit and berries, fresh herbs, milks, eggs and dairy as well as pharmacy and toiletries options and frozen food and ready meals.

Waitrose Rapid enables shoppers to have up to 25 grocery items delivered within two hours or less or on the same day, and is currently available in London, Bath and Hove. Items available include fresh fruit and berries, fresh herbs, milks, eggs and dairy as well as pharmacy and toiletries options and frozen food and ready meals.

HELLO ORIENTAL 

Delivery time: Next day 

Hello Oriental delivers nationwide with next day delivery, so you can treat your household to a dim sum feast, or host a sake tasting for your loved ones at home.

Customers can also shop for store cupboard essentials including condiments, seasonings, sauces, rice and noodles, as well as snacks, drinks, dim sum & dumplings, and a huge selection of fresh vegetables including more exotic ones as Thai aubergines, white radish and pandan leaves.  

CASACOSTA

Delivery time: Next day

Italian food delivery service Casacosta sells premium Italian goods as well as meat fish, pasta, bread and alcohol, as well as some health and wellbeing products.

The shop is based in Fulham, but they have next day delivery across London, with plans to go nationwide soon. 

DELICARIO

Delivery time: Next day 

Delicario is a niche online delicatessen for fine artisan food and wine, working with small-scale sustainable producers of authentic regional European delicacies with an ‘international farm to table approach’.  

They offer next day deliver on dozens of goods, including pasta, oil, rice, meat, champagne and tea.  

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Double dip recession on the way: Lockdown 3 set to cost us £390m a day after Britain shuts up shop

The UK faces plunging into its first double-dip recession since 1975, with the latest lockdown expected to cost almost £400million per day.

Output in the first quarter of this year will be £24.57billion lower than it would have been without the third national lockdown, a think-tank warned yesterday.

The Centre of Economics and Business Research (CEBR) predicts that if the lockdown is lifted in mid-February, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes, it will have cost the UK £390million every working day.

Business closures mean that output is likely to shrink by more than 4 per cent in the first three months of the year, according to the forecasting group Oxford Economics.

Although the economy should pick up later as the rollout of the Covid vaccine allows shops and restaurants to reopen, experts have already begun to slash their growth predictions for 2021.

Deserted: Carnaby Street in Soho, London, at 11am today which would normally be packed

Coronavirus is thought to have inflicted the worst hit to GDP since the Great Frost of 1709

Coronavirus is thought to have inflicted the worst hit to GDP since the Great Frost of 1709 

Government borrowing could be close to £400billion this year and is set to continue at eye-watering levels into the mid-2020s as experts warn that a double-dip recession is on the way

Government borrowing could be close to £400billion this year and is set to continue at eye-watering levels into the mid-2020s as experts warn that a double-dip recession is on the way

There will be fears that the UK is now tracking the downside scenario set out by the OBR watchdog at the end of November, after mutant coronavirus forced fresh lockdown

There will be fears that the UK is now tracking the downside scenario set out by the OBR watchdog at the end of November, after mutant coronavirus forced fresh lockdown

Howard Archer, of the EY Item Club economic forecasting group, had previously pencilled in growth of 6.2 per cent for 2021.

But now, given the grim start to 2021, he doubts output – or gross domestic product (GDP) – will grow by more than 5.5 per cent.

Mr Archer said: ‘With restrictions now in place in most areas of the UK, the EY Item Club expects the economy will have a challenging start to 2021 and will likely see modest contraction in the first quarter. This would result in a double dip recession.’

A recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of economic contraction, and a new one would represent the first double-dip recession to hit the UK since 1975, when the banking sector was in crisis and the country was being rocked by a series of strikes.

The pandemic dragged the UK into its first recession for 11 years at the start of last year.

The country had a brief respite in the third quarter as the first lockdown lifted and the Eat Out to Help Out scheme encouraged Britons to spend.

But the economy is expected to have shrunk again in the final three months of 2020 as Covid restrictions were reimposed.

Last month, the Bank of England predicted a 1 per cent decline for the final quarter of 2020. But Mr Archer thinks the fall could be nearer 2 per cent.

Ghost highway: An almost-empty M1 near Leeds at 8.15am earlier today as lockdown begins

Ghost highway: An almost-empty M1 near Leeds at 8.15am earlier today as lockdown begins

Empty streets in Manchester on the first day of new Covid lockdown as people stay at home

Empty streets in Manchester on the first day of new Covid lockdown as people stay at home

Another contraction in the first three months of 2021 will put the UK back in recession.

Allan Monks, an economist at the investment bank JP Morgan, said the third lockdown would ‘hit the economy harder’ than November’s restrictions.

While the drop is lower than the huge GDP fall during last spring’s lockdown, when the economy plummeted by nearly a fifth, it comes as output is still struggling.

Even heading into the third lockdown, the economy is already at around 11 per cent below what it should have been. Concerns over the UK’s lacklustre growth have renewed speculation that the Bank of England could cut interest rates to a minus figure to encourage spending rather than saving.

The Bank’s base interest rate is already at a record low of 0.1 per cent. If it went negative, customers would effectively be paying to keep their money in the bank.

But despite the gloomy forecasts, there are some signs of light at the end of the tunnel. Mr Archer said: ‘We expect the economy to benefit progressively through 2021 from the rollout of the vaccine.’

Mr Monks added: ‘We assume the level of GDP at the end of this year will not be materially lower due to a successful vaccine rollout.’

However, any improvement at the end of the year could come to late for the stationery chain Paperchase, which warned yesterday it was on the brink of collapse, putting 1,500 jobs at risk.

Alarm is growing at the state of the government's finances, with IFS director Paul Johnson saying the scale of the economic damage was the worst 'in the whole of history'

Alarm is growing at the state of the government’s finances, with IFS director Paul Johnson saying the scale of the economic damage was the worst ‘in the whole of history’

Ghost town: Plymouth city centre in Devon was deserted this morning as third lockdown starts

Ghost town: Plymouth city centre in Devon was deserted this morning as third lockdown starts

The firm, which has 127 branches, confirmed it had filed a notice to appoint administrators, which gives it protection from creditors for ten working days so it can formulate a rescue plan.

It said the Government’s coronavirus restrictions had put an ‘unbearable strain’ on business, with Christmas closures followed by the latest lockdown proving the final straws.

Paperchase struck a rescue deal with creditors in 2019, but its turnaround hopes were hit by the pandemic. Many stores are in airports and other transport hubs that suffered as commuter numbers plummeted.

The firm’s decision to take steps towards administration follow poor sales in November and December due to widespread store closures.

Those two months alone normally generate two fifths of its annual sales. A rise in online sales was not enough to cushion the blow.

A spokesman said: ‘Out of lockdown we’ve traded well, but as the country faces further restrictions for some months to come, we have to find a sustainable future for Paperchase

‘We are working hard to find that solution. This is not the situation we wanted to be in. Our team has been fantastic and we cannot thank them enough.’

A string of retailers has buckled in the face of the pandemic.

Despite government support of staff furlough, relief from business rates and protections from eviction, Topshop owner Arcadia, department store chain Debenhams and Monsoon Accesorize were among other casualties last year.

And as our City Editor shows, the Chancellor has already racked up a £277billion virus bill

Alex Brummer’s Analysis  

Rishi Sunak is well used to the routine now. For the 13th time since March 17, he’s having to dig deep into the Exchequer in his mammoth effort to keep as many businesses and jobs intact as he can, and to try to limit the long-term damage to Britain’s economic prospects.

By the standards of the vast scale of assistance already in place, the latest intervention is relatively small and carefully targeted at those smaller retail and hospitality businesses in danger of vanishing for ever as the third national lockdown takes hold.

The new bill of £4.6 billion represents just 0.2 per cent of the nation’s total output. It shrinks into insignificance when compared to the vast extra spend of nearly £280 billion on coronavirus support measures that the Chancellor has signed off in the past ten months.

The extra spending together with lost tax revenues means the UK will have to borrow more than £400 billion in the 2020-21 financial year ending in April.

The national debt – that is all the borrowing accumulated over decades – has already soared through the £2 trillion barrier and is now greater than the value of the output of every business and worker in the nation.

As City Editor Alex Brummer shows, Chancellor Rishi Sunak (pictured) has already racked up a £277billion virus bill as leading forecasters predict the economy will shrink by 3% in January

As City Editor Alex Brummer shows, Chancellor Rishi Sunak (pictured) has already racked up a £277billion virus bill as leading forecasters predict the economy will shrink by 3% in January

Mr Sunak’s latest measures will only slow the pace of slump, with leading forecasters predicting the economy will shrink by 3 per cent in January and 3.5 per cent in the first quarter of the year, squashing hopes of a rapid bounce-back.

The Office for Budget Responsibility has estimated the average cost of each of the Chancellor’s previous 12 spending packages has been a whopping £22 billion – more than any annual loosening of budgetary policy dating back to the pre-election Budget of 1992.

As well, the Bank of England has expanded its programme of buying Government bonds for cash three times since the first lockdown and has now pumped an extra £475 billion into the economy since March.

The Bank’s policy is designed to support consumption, spending and investment.

So where exactly is the money going?

Public services – £127.1bn

As the pandemic year has progressed, the Government has committed to spending an extra £127.1 billion on public services.

Included in this figure is direct spending on the NHS; the cost of Test and Trace; ordering, buying and distributing vaccines; PPE; extra support for local authorities and social care and for the free school meals scheme championed by footballer Marcus Rashford.

Employment support – £73.3bn

It has been stop-and-go for the employment market since the Chancellor came up with the Covid jobs support scheme – better known as furlough – on March 20.

He renewed the scheme in his Winter Economic Plan in September after previously seeking to phase it out. If this support package – together with a similar scheme for the self-employed – runs until April 30, the cost is estimated at a whopping £73.3 billion.

If, as hinted at by Mr Sunak yesterday, the scheme is extended, it will be even more. The generosity of furlough means the UK’s unemployment level stood at 4.9 per cent of the workforce in December against 8.4 per cent in Europe.

Some 370,000 UK citizens – a record figure – were made redundant in the three months from October to December.

Loans and guarantees – £31.4bn

Operating through the high street banks, the Government has given out £68.2 billion in loans to small and medium-sized businesses.

In addition, the Bank of England has a special loan facility for the biggest public, private and overseas-owned companies operating in the UK.

Many of the guaranteed loans will not be repaid, with an estimated cost to the Exchequer of £31.4 billion.

Experts predict if it's lifted in February as planned it will have cost £390m every working day

Experts predict if it’s lifted in February as planned it will have cost £390m every working day

Business support – £36.7bn

The Chancellor has added £4.6 billion to his already expensive package of measures for business and enterprise which has been costed at £34.1 billion.

This includes the tax break on business rates which is scheduled to end on April 27, the cut in VAT for hospitality businesses currently closed, and direct grants to high street firms administered by local authorities.

The big supermarkets have given back £2 billion of suspended business rates after making super-charged profits during the pandemic.

Welfare measures – £8.3bn

The biggest welfare expense has been the £20-per-week temporary increase in universal credit worth £1,000 a year to recipients.

Mr Sunak has also raised the sums that low-income renters can claim in the shape of housing allowances.

The bill for job seeker’s allowance has also climbed as more people join the dole queues.

Altogether the cost of additional welfare payments is projected at £8.3 billion by the end of the fiscal year in April.

The Chancellor is under great pressure from think-tanks and campaign groups to make the extra £20-a-week universal credit a permanent rise.

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Is Matt Hancock backing off mid-February vaccine target ALREADY?

Tory MPs accused Matt Hancock of playing down the Government’s vaccination ambitions yesterday, amid claims that the his department has snubbed an offer by pharmacists to help the biggest vaccination drive in history – and it emerged doses of the vaccine will not be delivered to GPs on a Sunday.

The Health Secretary described the prospect of giving the coronavirus jab to the 13million vulnerable people who are most by mid-February as a ‘best-case scenario’ – despite it being the only way the country will get out of lockdown, with the livelihoods and mental well-being of millions riding on it.

Many of his parliamentary colleagues were not reassured by his comments to them over Zoom yesterday morning.

One MP who referred to the call as ‘Hancock’s half-hour’ said: ‘He emphasised that the prospect of the vulnerable being vaccinated by mid-February was a best-case scenario. It was heavily caveated.

‘He set out plenty of reasons why it might not happen by then. He left himself plenty of wriggle room. It was very much an aspiration and there were no guarantees. I fear that they have not got the vaccine in sufficient quantities.’

‘He said two million doses of the Oxford vaccine would arrive this week for use next week. They should have been stockpiling. The rollout needs to happen as fast as possible. It’s the only chance we’ve got.’

The Tory MPs fears follow claims from industry leaders that high street pharmacies ‘desperately’ want to roll out more than a million Oxford vaccine doses a week but have been snubbed by the government. They say pharmacies could help deliver more than a million injections a week if the 11,400 locations with a pharmacist trained to give injections carry out 20 a day.

And leaked documents show Public Health England has decided to not work on Sundays to deliver the Covid-19 vaccines to NHS hospitals, with guidance to NHS Trusts warning that deliveries will not be made on Sundays or after agreed ‘cut-off points’ every lunchtime, according to reports. 

The news comes as: 

  • Chris Whitty warns Covid restrictions might be needed next winter if the vaccine drive isn’t effective enough 
  • Government graphs show cases of highly-infectious Covid variant are dropping in London and the South East 
  • Lockdown 3 is set to cost Britain £390million a day, fuelling fears of financial double-dip recession 
  • Boris Johnson reveals that one in fifty people now have Covid, as the UK records another 830 deaths 
  • PM says 1.3million have been vaccinated and pledges Britain can get jabs to the vulnerable by mid-February

Pictured: Health Secretary Matt Hancock lead Downing Street on Tuesday after Boris Johnson set out further measures as part of a new lockdown in England. In a zoom call on Tuesday, Hancock failed to reassure fellow MPs of the country’s vaccine programme 

Slides presented at the briefing showed that one in 50 people in England are thought to be infected with coronavirus

Slides presented at the briefing showed that one in 50 people in England are thought to be infected with coronavirus 

Double dip recession is on the way: Lockdown 3 is set to cost us £390million a day after Britain shuts up shop… fuelling fears of financial Armageddon 

The UK faces plunging into its first double-dip recession since 1975, with the latest lockdown expected to cost almost £400million per day.

Output in the first quarter of this year will be £24.57billion lower than it would have been without the third national lockdown, a think-tank warned yesterday.

The Centre of Economics and Business Research (CEBR) predicts that if the lockdown is lifted in mid-February, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes, it will have cost the UK £390million every working day.

Business closures mean that output is likely to shrink by more than 4 per cent in the first three months of the year, according to the forecasting group Oxford Economics.

Although the economy should pick up later as the rollout of the Covid vaccine allows shops and restaurants to reopen, experts have already begun to slash their growth predictions for 2021.

Howard Archer, of the EY Item Club economic forecasting group, had previously pencilled in growth of 6.2 per cent for 2021.

But now, given the grim start to 2021, he doubts output – or gross domestic product (GDP) – will grow by more than 5.5 per cent.

Mr Archer said: ‘With restrictions now in place in most areas of the UK, the EY Item Club expects the economy will have a challenging start to 2021 and will likely see modest contraction in the first quarter. This would result in a double dip recession.’

A recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of economic contraction, and a new one would represent the first double-dip recession to hit the UK since 1975, when the banking sector was in crisis and the country was being rocked by a series of strikes.

The pandemic dragged the UK into its first recession for 11 years at the start of last year.

The country had a brief respite in the third quarter as the first lockdown lifted and the Eat Out to Help Out scheme encouraged Britons to spend.

But the economy is expected to have shrunk again in the final three months of 2020 as Covid restrictions were reimposed.

Last month, the Bank of England predicted a 1 per cent decline for the final quarter of 2020. But Mr Archer thinks the fall could be nearer 2 per cent.

Simon Dukes, chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Negotiating Services Committee, asked why the NHS has been ‘scrabbling around’ to find ways to administer the vaccine when his industry has offered their services. 

Ministers have come under pressure to deploy thousands of vaccinators at pharmacies to the national effort in rolling out the inoculations, rather than relying on GPs, nurses and volunteers, but Mr Dukes says his industry has been met with a ‘de facto silence’ despite telling the NHS they are ‘ready, willing and desperate to help’, The Telegraph reports. 

He said that there were roughly 11,400 pharmacies across Britain that administered flu jabs each year, with capacity to vaccinate around 1.3 million people a week against Covid-19. 

And leaked documents show Public Health England decided to not work on Sundays to deliver the Covid-19 vaccines to NHS hospitals, reports claim. 

Next-day deliveries should only be expected from Monday to Friday, providing orders are placed before 11.55am, operating procedures issued to NHS Trusts warn. Reports say that if an order is placed on a Friday afternoon or Saturday morning, it will not arrive until Monday.  

A PHE source told the Telegraph: ‘You need a cut-off point or the whole system would fall over. And we agreed the six-day week with the NHS.’ 

Interim chief executive of PHE Michael Brodie said: ‘We run a seven-day-a-week service and have fulfilled 100 per cent of orders from the NHS on time and in full – with routine next-day deliveries six days a week, as agreed with the NHS and the capability to send orders on Sundays if required.’ 

In relation to Matt Hancock’s comments about the vaccine, a Department for Health source said: ‘As the Health Secretary said on the call, our goal is to have offered priority groups one to four their first dose by the middle of February. That is an ambitious goal but achievable.’

Yesterday, chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said it was ‘realistic but not easy’ to keep to the vaccine timetable.

‘In the case of the Pfizer vaccine, as I think is widely reported, it’s more difficult to handle because of the complicated cold chain model,’ he said. 

‘We also, with both vaccines, wanted to be very careful in the first two or three days that we went a little bit slowly just in case there were some initial unexpected problems.’ 

Mr Johnson has said that 1.3 million people in the UK – including 1.1 million in England – have now had the jab. The figures includes 650,000 over-80s – or 23 per cent of that group.

‘That means nearly one-in-four of the most vulnerable groups will have in two to three weeks a significant degree of immunity,’ the PM said. 

But Tory MP David Davis said: ‘There’s not a hope in hell they’ll achieve this by mid-February. March is optimistic. I suspect it will be sometime in April. We need more vaccines to be rolled out.

‘Anyone who’s run a business would foresee the bottlenecks and issues with production.’

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson watches as Jennifer Dumasi receives a dose of the AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine during a visit to Chase Farm Hospital in north London

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson watches as Jennifer Dumasi receives a dose of the AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine during a visit to Chase Farm Hospital in north London

Glass vial shortage and delays in approval – is this why the Covid-19 vaccine drive is being held up? 

By Kate Pickles, Health Correspondent for The Daily Mail 

Britain has vaccinated 1.3million people in just under a month… but the target is two million a week.

That’s the rate needed to protect the four most vulnerable groups by February 15 – including everyone over 70.

Boris Johnson has blamed regulators for the sluggish start, warning that their strict protocols have limited how quickly the vaccine programme can be accelerated.

Use London Nightingale? What an ExCellent idea!

London’s Nightingale hospital is to double up as a mass vaccination hub, providing jabs seven days a week from 8am to 8pm.

Work continued last night at the ExCel, Europe’s biggest conference centre. With cases soaring in the capital, the Docklands site has already been ‘reactivated’ to ensure it can relieve pressure on the NHS if necessary.

Epsom racecourse is among several other landmarks set to offer jabs as Britain’s vaccination programme gathers pace.

Vaccination drive: Moving barriers at the ExCel Centre

Vaccination drive: Moving barriers at the ExCel Centre

Groundwork: Tents on the west side of the Docklands site

Groundwork: Tents on the west side of the Docklands site

The Business Secretary, Alok Sharma, had promised in May that 30million doses of the vaccine from Oxford and AstraZeneca would be ready by September. Now, four months on from that deadline, our stocks are still falling short of the target two million a week.

The Prime Minister said of the inoculation drive: ‘The rate limiting the factor at the moment is making sure that we can get enough vaccine where we want it fast enough.

One of the problems as you know is that the AstraZeneca vaccine needs to be properly batch-tested, properly approved before it can be put into people’s arms and this is just a process that takes time to do… but we will be ratcheting it up over the next days and weeks ahead.’

Other serious difficulties include worldwide demand for glass vials. In addition, those hoping to join an army of volunteers to boost the national effort have been tangled up in reams of red tape.

Ministers insist that the NHS has the capacity to deliver two million doses a week – once it receives supplies from manufacturers which have been checked by regulators. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) insists it is capable of batch testing – but has been waiting to receive more doses from manufacturers.

Chief medical officer Chris Whitty told yesterday’s Downing Street press conference that the six-week target was ‘realistic but not easy’. So, as Britain embarks upon the biggest vaccination drive in its history, what are the main hurdles?

Is batch testing too slow?

Each batch must be tested for quality by the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC), part of the MHRA. The process can take up to 20 days.

A sample from each vaccine batch – which can contain hundreds of thousands of doses – is biologically tested for quality and safety.

Manufacturers must also carry out their own tests on each batch before submitting results as evidence to the NIBSC. Delays in providing these details – or any failure to meet standards – can slow the whole process down.

Only once both sets of tests have been completed – and the manufacturer’s results deemed acceptable – is a batch released by regulators for use by the NHS.

More doses are now being produced, which increases the workload for laboratories handling quality control. An MHRA spokesperson said: ‘We are working closely with the [Oxford vaccine] manufacturer, AstraZeneca, to ensure that batches of the vaccine are released as quickly as possible.

‘NIBSC has scaled-up its capacity to ensure that multiple batches can be tested simultaneously, and that this can be done as quickly as possible, without compromising quality and safety.’

Some observers have pointed out that the MHRA managed to speed up the process which saw Covid vaccines cleared for use. Critics might wonder why the same can’t be done at this stage, too.

People queue outside a Covid-19 vaccination centre in Guy's hopsital in London on Tuesday

People queue outside a Covid-19 vaccination centre in Guy’s hopsital in London on Tuesday

Are there enough vials?

Drugs firms warned about a potential shortage of vials as far back as May, given the massive worldwide demand for vaccines.

The tubes are made from borosilicate glass, which keeps vaccines in the requisite stable state during storage and transportation. The glass is chemically inert, meaning there is no interaction between the container and the liquid inside it. This is crucial, as any chemical interference could affect the vaccine. Only a handful of companies make the vials, with Schott in Germany one of the leading producers. 

Industry insiders have suggested that the UK needs to ramp up production itself to stop its reliance on overseas companies. Dave Dalton, chief executive of the trade body British Glass, said the supply chain ‘needs to be strengthened and improved’, adding that the supply of medical glass and vials was something that the industry had raised itself – and is ready to help sort out.

Advanced nurse practitioner Justine Williams (left) prepares to administer a dose of the AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine to 82-year-old James Shaw, the first person in Scotland to receive the vaccination

Advanced nurse practitioner Justine Williams (left) prepares to administer a dose of the AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine to 82-year-old James Shaw, the first person in Scotland to receive the vaccination

Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, suggested issues with so-called ‘fill and finish’ materials, including glass vials, could hinder the vaccine’s rollout. ‘The only thing that is going to slow us down is batches of vaccines becoming available,’ he said during a Downing Street briefing. ‘Many of you know already that it’s not just about vaccine manufacture. It’s about fill and finish, which is a critically short resource across the globe.’ The Department of Health denies there are any vial shortages.

The UK has manufactured around 15million doses of the Oxford-Astra-Zeneca vaccine so far, with plants in Germany and the Netherlands providing more of the early batches. However, only four million doses have been through the fill and finish process – and are still awaiting MHRA clearance.

Do we have enough people to give jabs?

Retired doctors have complained that red tape has stopped them from returning to the frontline to deliver Covid vaccines.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock vowed to tackle the problem, with some would-be volunteers asked for 21 documents proving they are trained in areas such as counter- terrorism and racial equality.

Practice Sister Tina Sutton (left) administers a dose of the AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine to Derek Davies Games at the Pontcae Medical Practice in Merthyr Tydfil in Wales

Practice Sister Tina Sutton (left) administers a dose of the AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine to Derek Davies Games at the Pontcae Medical Practice in Merthyr Tydfil in Wales

NHS England says it has ‘tens of thousands’ of vaccinators ready to be called upon when more doses are ready to be administered. The army includes healthcare workers such as physiotherapists, nurse practitioners and paramedics who were given the green light to administer jabs after a rule change this summer.

An NHS spokesman said there were ‘thousands more’ in training, but added that the Health Service was confident it has enough people to staff the vaccination programme as it expands. Medics from the Armed Forces are also set to be deployed.

Are checks too long?

BUREAUCRACY has been blamed for slowing down the actual act of vaccination, too, with patients facing lengthy quizzes about their medical history.

Some say they underwent a 15-minute medical questionnaire over the phone before being asked for many of the same details when they arrived for their jab.

Once vaccinated, patients should be monitored for 15 minutes to ensure they have no adverse reactions – meaning the whole process can take around 45 minutes. Doctors have suggested that this should be streamlined, as it severely limits how many vaccines can be delivered at any given site in one day.

What about the manufacturers?

Pharmaceutical companies have hit back at any suggestion that they are to blame for delays.

Pfizer and BioNTech – producers of the first vaccine approved by the MHRA – said they have now sent ‘millions’ of doses to the UK, with up to 40million expected in the coming months.

AstraZeneca has confirmed it expects to be able to supply two million doses of the Oxford vaccine to the NHS every week by the second half of this month, with at least 20million due by the end of March. The jab has only been available at hospital hubs so far – but GP surgeries will join the rollout tomorrow. 

Double dip recession is on the way: Lockdown 3 is set to cost us £390million a day after Britain shuts up shop… fuelling fears of financial Armageddon

  • Today, a think-tank has warned that the country’s first quarter output will be £24.57billion lower than it would have been without the latest national lockdown
  • Experts predict if it’s lifted in February it will have cost £390m every working day
  • Economists say lockdown will ‘hit economy harder’ than November restrictions
  • Pandemic dragged the UK into its first recession for 11 years at the start of 2020 

The UK faces plunging into its first double-dip recession since 1975, with the latest lockdown expected to cost almost £400million per day.

Output in the first quarter of this year will be £24.57billion lower than it would have been without the third national lockdown, a think-tank warned yesterday.

The Centre of Economics and Business Research (CEBR) predicts that if the lockdown is lifted in mid-February, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes, it will have cost the UK £390million every working day.

Business closures mean that output is likely to shrink by more than 4 per cent in the first three months of the year, according to the forecasting group Oxford Economics.

Although the economy should pick up later as the rollout of the Covid vaccine allows shops and restaurants to reopen, experts have already begun to slash their growth predictions for 2021.

Deserted: Carnaby Street in Soho, London, at 11am today which would normally be packed

Deserted: Carnaby Street in Soho, London, at 11am today which would normally be packed

Coronavirus is thought to have inflicted the worst hit to GDP since the Great Frost of 1709

Coronavirus is thought to have inflicted the worst hit to GDP since the Great Frost of 1709 

Government borrowing could be close to £400billion this year and is set to continue at eye-watering levels into the mid-2020s as experts warn that a double-dip recession is on the way

Government borrowing could be close to £400billion this year and is set to continue at eye-watering levels into the mid-2020s as experts warn that a double-dip recession is on the way

There will be fears that the UK is now tracking the downside scenario set out by the OBR watchdog at the end of November, after mutant coronavirus forced fresh lockdown

There will be fears that the UK is now tracking the downside scenario set out by the OBR watchdog at the end of November, after mutant coronavirus forced fresh lockdown

Howard Archer, of the EY Item Club economic forecasting group, had previously pencilled in growth of 6.2 per cent for 2021.

But now, given the grim start to 2021, he doubts output – or gross domestic product (GDP) – will grow by more than 5.5 per cent.

Mr Archer said: ‘With restrictions now in place in most areas of the UK, the EY Item Club expects the economy will have a challenging start to 2021 and will likely see modest contraction in the first quarter. This would result in a double dip recession.’

A recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of economic contraction, and a new one would represent the first double-dip recession to hit the UK since 1975, when the banking sector was in crisis and the country was being rocked by a series of strikes.

The pandemic dragged the UK into its first recession for 11 years at the start of last year.

The country had a brief respite in the third quarter as the first lockdown lifted and the Eat Out to Help Out scheme encouraged Britons to spend.

But the economy is expected to have shrunk again in the final three months of 2020 as Covid restrictions were reimposed.

Last month, the Bank of England predicted a 1 per cent decline for the final quarter of 2020. But Mr Archer thinks the fall could be nearer 2 per cent.

Ghost highway: An almost-empty M1 near Leeds at 8.15am earlier today as lockdown begins

Ghost highway: An almost-empty M1 near Leeds at 8.15am earlier today as lockdown begins

Empty streets in Manchester on the first day of new Covid lockdown as people stay at home

Empty streets in Manchester on the first day of new Covid lockdown as people stay at home

Another contraction in the first three months of 2021 will put the UK back in recession.

Allan Monks, an economist at the investment bank JP Morgan, said the third lockdown would ‘hit the economy harder’ than November’s restrictions.

While the drop is lower than the huge GDP fall during last spring’s lockdown, when the economy plummeted by nearly a fifth, it comes as output is still struggling.

Even heading into the third lockdown, the economy is already at around 11 per cent below what it should have been. Concerns over the UK’s lacklustre growth have renewed speculation that the Bank of England could cut interest rates to a minus figure to encourage spending rather than saving.

The Bank’s base interest rate is already at a record low of 0.1 per cent. If it went negative, customers would effectively be paying to keep their money in the bank.

But despite the gloomy forecasts, there are some signs of light at the end of the tunnel. Mr Archer said: ‘We expect the economy to benefit progressively through 2021 from the rollout of the vaccine.’

Mr Monks added: ‘We assume the level of GDP at the end of this year will not be materially lower due to a successful vaccine rollout.’

However, any improvement at the end of the year could come to late for the stationery chain Paperchase, which warned yesterday it was on the brink of collapse, putting 1,500 jobs at risk.

Alarm is growing at the state of the government's finances, with IFS director Paul Johnson saying the scale of the economic damage was the worst 'in the whole of history'

Alarm is growing at the state of the government’s finances, with IFS director Paul Johnson saying the scale of the economic damage was the worst ‘in the whole of history’

Ghost town: Plymouth city centre in Devon was deserted this morning as third lockdown starts

Ghost town: Plymouth city centre in Devon was deserted this morning as third lockdown starts

The firm, which has 127 branches, confirmed it had filed a notice to appoint administrators, which gives it protection from creditors for ten working days so it can formulate a rescue plan.

It said the Government’s coronavirus restrictions had put an ‘unbearable strain’ on business, with Christmas closures followed by the latest lockdown proving the final straws.

Paperchase struck a rescue deal with creditors in 2019, but its turnaround hopes were hit by the pandemic. Many stores are in airports and other transport hubs that suffered as commuter numbers plummeted.

The firm’s decision to take steps towards administration follow poor sales in November and December due to widespread store closures.

Those two months alone normally generate two fifths of its annual sales. A rise in online sales was not enough to cushion the blow.

A spokesman said: ‘Out of lockdown we’ve traded well, but as the country faces further restrictions for some months to come, we have to find a sustainable future for Paperchase

‘We are working hard to find that solution. This is not the situation we wanted to be in. Our team has been fantastic and we cannot thank them enough.’

A string of retailers has buckled in the face of the pandemic.

Despite government support of staff furlough, relief from business rates and protections from eviction, Topshop owner Arcadia, department store chain Debenhams and Monsoon Accesorize were among other casualties last year.

Boris Johnson promises daily updates on Britain’s Covid vaccine drive as NHS drafts High Street giants Superdrug and Boots to deliver jabs in stores – but is Prime Minister over-promising again?  

  • The Prime Minister pledged to keep the public in the loop about the mass Covid immunisation programme
  • Three Morrisons car parks and three Boots stores converting into temporary vaccine hubs from next Monday
  • Tesco has offered up its warehouses and lorries to move jabs, while BrewDog has volunteered its closed pubs
  • Number 10 has pledged to vaccinate around 13million of the most vulnerable Britons by middle of next month

Which high street chains have offered to help and which ones have been approved? 

Several high street chains are in talks with the Government about helping with the vaccine roll out.

But so far only Boots, Superdrug and Morrisons have been approved to start dishing out doses. 

Approved:

Boots – three sites starting next week, with ‘more to come’.

Superdrug – five sites starting next week, with ‘tens more’ to be approved.

Morrisons – Three car parks converted into drive-through vaccine clinics from Monday, with more on standby if needed.

In talks:

Tesco – offered to use its lorries and warehouses to help with logistics.

Pub chains Brewdog, Young’s, Marston’s and Loungers – offered to use closed pubs as temporary clinics.

Boris Johnson tonight promised to update the nation on Britain’s great Covid vaccination drive every day starting next week, as the NHS called on High Street giants to help drastically ramp up the scheme in hopes of hitting the goal of 2million a week. 

Admitting there were still ‘long weeks ahead’ and urging England to persevere with the nation’s third lockdown, the Prime Minister pledged to keep the public in the loop about the mass immunisation programme, which is the only way out of the endless cycle of lockdowns. 

Mr Johnson said in a Downing Street press conference that health chiefs would offer daily updates from Monday ‘so that you can see day-by-day and jab-by-jab how much progress we are making’. 

His pledge comes after Sir Keir Starmer sent a warning shot over his promise, claiming it will be another example of No10 ‘over-promising and under-delivering’ if it fails. The Labour leader said scaling up the programme — which has so far inoculated 1.3million people in a month — would be a ‘struggle’ and that there was ‘no room for error’. 

MailOnline also revealed today that the Government will use Superdrug help vaccinate 13million Britons by mid-February, with stores in Manchester, Leeds, Bristol, Guildford and Basingstoke just waiting on delivery of doses to start dishing them out from as soon as next week. 

Tens more sites are on standby across the UK if needed. Each store will be able to inject 1,000 people every week and will operate from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week. Patients will be referred to the clinics through the normal NHS booking service and vaccines will be carried out by trained in-store pharmacists and nurses.

Boots is also turning three of its pharmacies in Halifax, Huddersfield and Gloucester into vaccine clinics to bolster the programme, with more to come. While Morrisons announced three of its car parks will be converted into drive-through vaccination centres from Monday. 

Meanwhile, Tesco has offered up its warehouses and lorries to help move doses quickly around the country and craft brewer BrewDog has claimed it’s in talks with ministers about turning its closed bars into temporary jab hubs. Pub chains are also throwing their weight behind the rollout of the mass vaccination scheme to get life back to normal by spring, with firms such as Young’s, Marston’s and Loungers offering their venues as potential sites.

It comes as England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said scaling up the vaccination programme was ‘realistic but not easy’. He added: ‘The NHS is going to have to use multiple channels to get this out but they are very determined to do this, but that does not make it easy.’    

In the same briefing that Mr Johnson revealed that the spread of the mutant version of the disease made lockdown impossible to avoid, Professor Whitty also delivered a grim message that ‘some’ restrictions could still be needed next winter, as the virus was likely to be in regular circulation like flu.  

Admitting there were still 'long weeks ahead' and urging England to persevere with the nation's third lockdown, the Prime Minister pledged to keep the public in the loop about the mass immunisation programme

Admitting there were still ‘long weeks ahead’ and urging England to persevere with the nation’s third lockdown, the Prime Minister pledged to keep the public in the loop about the mass immunisation programme

Superdrug and Boots are poised to start dishing out thousands of jabs next week, while car parks at supermarket Morrisons will be converted to drive-through vaccination centres from Monday. Meanwhile, Tesco has offered up its warehouses and lorries to help move doses quickly around the country and craft brewer BrewDog has claimed it's in talks with ministers about turning its closed bars into temporary jab hubs. Pub chains are also throwing their weight behind the rollout of the mass vaccination scheme to get life back to normal by spring, with firms such as Young's, Marston's and Loungers offering their venues as potential sites

Superdrug and Boots are poised to start dishing out thousands of jabs next week, while car parks at supermarket Morrisons will be converted to drive-through vaccination centres from Monday. Meanwhile, Tesco has offered up its warehouses and lorries to help move doses quickly around the country and craft brewer BrewDog has claimed it’s in talks with ministers about turning its closed bars into temporary jab hubs. Pub chains are also throwing their weight behind the rollout of the mass vaccination scheme to get life back to normal by spring, with firms such as Young’s, Marston’s and Loungers offering their venues as potential sites

World leader: Israel has already given a first dose to nearly 1.4million of its 8.7million population, and plans to have a fifth of its people fully vaccinated by the end of January. The rapid rollout contrasts with the delays that have hampered the process in Europe and the US

World leader: Israel has already given a first dose to nearly 1.4million of its 8.7million population, and plans to have a fifth of its people fully vaccinated by the end of January. The rapid rollout contrasts with the delays that have hampered the process in Europe and the US 

If, If, If, If… how likely is it that No10 will vaccinate 13million Britons by mid-February?

Boris Johnson last night vowed to give one dose of a coronavirus vaccine to 13.2million care home residents, over-70s, frontline health workers and Britons classified as ‘vulnerable’ by mid-February.

It is the first time that the government outlined a target number of vaccinations, amid fears No10 is delivering doses too slowly to lift restrictions by Easter, which the Prime Minister suggested would be possible. 

But the PM included a number of caveats in his target and said it would be dependent on everything going in the government’s favour. 

His comments came after experts warned that Britain may not be free of coronavirus restrictions until next winter, unless the NHS hits its ambitious target of vaccinating 2million people every week. 

There are still huge questions about whether the NHS will be able to hit 2million jabs a week target, which scientists say Britain needs to get to ‘very quickly’ to have any hope of a normal summer.

AstraZeneca bosses have pledged to deliver the milestone figure of doses a week by mid-January. And the NHS has promised it will be able to dish them out as quickly as it gets them.

But there already appears to be cracks forming in the supply chain. Only 530,000 doses of the Oxford coronavirus vaccine will be available for vulnerable people this week, despite officials promising at least 4million just weeks ago. 

England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty has warned that vaccine availability issues will ‘remain the case for several months’ as firms struggle to keep up with global demand. 

Discussing the vaccine roll-out in tonight’s press conference, Mr Johnson said the total numbers for the first four JCVI groups are a little higher than the 13 million target figure previously mentioned.

He said: ‘We’re going to do them as fast as we possibly can. We’ve set the target, as you know, by the middle of February. Yes, it is a huge effort, the biggest vaccination programme in the history of this country.’

Mr Johnson added it will require the combined efforts of the NHS and the Armed Services, and that every part of Government is working ‘absolutely flat out’ on the roll-out.

He said the rate-limiting factor is ‘making sure that we can get enough vaccine where we want it fast enough’.

Further details on the number of vaccinations carried out will be given on Thursday and will be released daily from Monday, he said.

He added: ‘What we will be trying to do is to try to break down some of these figures for people so everybody can see which groups are getting the vaccine and how it’s being distributed across the country.’

He said it is something of ‘massive national interest’ as he committed to being ‘as transparent as we can possibly be’.

No10 has pledged to vaccinate around 13million of the most vulnerable Brits — including care home residents and staff, NHS workers and all over-70s — by mid-February, in the hope of then being able to ease the most draconian curbs. The mammoth target would require vaccinating about 2million people a week.

But there are serious doubts about whether the target is achievable, given it has been slow to get off the ground and the NHS will need to juggle running the biggest immunisation programme in British history with battling the greatest crisis it has ever faced as Covid patients continue to pour into hospitals. 

Record numbers of staff absences and stringent infection control measures are also making the jobs of frontline health workers more difficult.

The NHS has refused to commit to the two million target because of potential vaccine supply shortages, staffing concerns and other logistical hurdles. 

There is also a suggestion that health bosses want to distance themselves from the Government’s arbitrary targets, given that it has failed to hit numerous goals throughout the pandemic, including ramping up daily swabbing capacity and expanding NHS Test and Trace. 

If it wants to deliver on the 13million promise, the NHS will need to move four times quicker than its winter flu jab programme.  

Sir Keir Starmer sent a warning shot to Boris Johnson today over the PM's ambitious goal of vaccinating 13million Brits by mid-February, claiming if it fails it will be yet another example of No10 'over-promising and under-deliverin

Sir Keir Starmer sent a warning shot to Boris Johnson today over the PM’s ambitious goal of vaccinating 13million Brits by mid-February, claiming if it fails it will be yet another example of No10 ‘over-promising and under-deliverin

How Israel has leaped ahead in the Covid vaccine race 

Israel has leaped ahead in the global vaccine race by squeezing every last dose out of its vaccine supplies and using its efficient health system to launch a 24/7 immunisation drive with military help – with Benjamin Netanyahu making himself as visible as possible as he bids for re-election in March.

Some 1.4million Israelis have already had a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, with nearly a sixth of the 8.7million population immunised against Covid-19 in less than three weeks.

Nearly 146,000 people received the jab on Monday alone – more than some Western countries including Italy, Spain and Canada have distributed in total – with jabs being given out in sports arenas and military reservists being drafted in to help.

While only Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines have been used so far, Israel has also had deals in place with Moderna and AstraZeneca since before any of the jabs were approved.

It has also divided up its vaccine stocks to get them to remote areas, and some of its health workers have even extracted extra doses from the vials they receive.

In addition, Israelis have been promised digital ‘green passports’ allowing them to sidestep certain lockdown rules once they receive both doses.

Health ministry director-general Hezi Levy said that around a fifth of Israel’s population would have had both shots by the end of this month.

‘By the end of January, we shall have inoculated two million residents, most of them elderly,’ he said.

Figures show only 11.68million people eligible for a free flu jab from their GP in England got one last winter, at a rate of 470,000 per week. For comparison, the speed of the entire UK’s current Covid inoculation drive — which relied on just one vaccine until yesterday — stands at 330,000 per week. 

In order to vaccinate all 13million Britons in the four most at-risk categories by mid-February, the NHS operation must speed up six-fold to 2million a week. Only 1million doses have been dished out so far, which means roughly 12million still need to get their vaccine in the 41 days between now and February 15. 

That is the equivalent of around 290,000 a day. It is crucial people are vaccinated 12 days before measures are relaxed because the vaccines take 12 days to start working. Department of Health statistics dated up until December 27 show 944,539 doses were dished out in the 20 days of it being operational — at a speed of around 47,000 a day. 

Top experts told MailOnline there was ‘no evidence’ to suggest the Government was capable of delivering the two million doses per week and suggested the Government was dangling the carrot of vaccines to soften the blow of the newest lockdown, while MPs said the goal was ‘dubious’. 

When WILL we escape the recurring Covid nightmare? Top experts give their verdicts

As Britain is plunged into its third national lockdown, many are wondering whether the Covid nightmare will ever end. 

Here, we ask some of the country’s foremost scientific experts to consult their crystal balls, and give you their views on how and when we might return to normality…

PULL TOGETHER AND GET A JAB SO SUMMER WILL BE SAVED  

Dr Paul McKay, vaccine research scientist at Imperial College department of medicine

Desperate though this latest lockdown announcement is, given the rapidly rising hospitalisation and infection rates, it certainly seems necessary.

But, while the logistics of finding our way out of all this are daunting, I believe it is possible to get Britain back to near normal within six months.

The Government aims to vaccinate two million people every week, beginning with the oldest and most vulnerable. This would rely on exceptional efficiency. But, I believe, it can be done.

So far, around 1,000 sites across the UK have been selected to carry out vaccinations, so they will each have to process 2,000 vaccines a week in order to achieve that target of two million. That’s 400 jabs a day, five days a week… or about one a minute throughout the working day.

It would be impossible for one person to safely manage that. But one every 20 minutes is feasible. So we’ll need 20 people on average giving vaccines at each centre.

And at that rate, the entire population of 66 million Britons could be treated in eight months. It’s ambitious, but not impossible. And here’s a boost: not everyone needs a vaccine immediately.

Current dogma is that the 11.75 million children in the UK, for instance, are the least at risk from this disease, so they will be last in the vaccination queue. The virus is most dangerous in the over-80s, who number around 3.2 million. Add the 420,000 in care homes (there will be some overlap) and the three million people employed in health and social care – and that’s roughly 6.6 million in total. Vaccinating these groups is the top priority. All going well, they should mostly be safe from severe disease from some point in February. Which will hopefully mean that a full-scale lockdown will no longer be required.

Then once all over-65s and people with pre-existing health conditions – about 15 million Brits – are vaccinated, we should be able to return to Tier Two and Three restrictions by March or April, with restaurants and pubs open. And foreign travel may be on the cards too.

But for all restrictions to be safely relaxed, I estimate we need to achieve 70 per cent inoculation. That’s between 45 and 50 million people – which hopefully can be achieved by the end of June. Until then, it will be necessary to continue with social distancing protocols and the wearing of masks. And only when the vaccine has been provided to everyone who requires it should we think about allowing mass gatherings again.

All assumptions on timings of course depend on a super efficient vaccine roll-out, at a scale we’ve never done before. But if we all pull together and get vaccinated when it becomes available to us, the second half of 2021 can be very different to the first.

WHY I FEAR NEXT WINTER WILL STILL BE DIFFICULT  

Paul Hunter, Professor in Medicine at the University of East Anglia

A month ago I felt very optimistic about the approaching year, with every hope that the rollercoaster cycle of lockdowns and cautious re-openings would soon be over. Sadly, those hopes faded on December 19, when the Prime Minister warned of a new much more infectious variant.

Since then the news has got ever grimmer, leaving me feeling today – following this latest lockdown announcement – that any hopes we harboured of returning to something like normality by spring are nothing short of a pipe dream.

The problem is that we are once more facing too many variables, not in the least in terms of the large question mark which hangs over the efficacy of the newly-minted vaccines at preventing infection. While they are an undoubted scientific triumph, we only know for sure that they reduce the chance of people becoming severely ill, rather than contracting the infection.  

As the World Health Organization’s chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan put it: ‘I don’t believe we have the evidence on any of the vaccines to be confident that it’s going to prevent people from actually getting the infection and therefore being able to pass it on.’

Alas, without reducing the risk of spreading the infection, we will not achieve herd immunity, and unimmunised individuals will remain at risk of becoming ill with the virus.

That, coupled with ongoing uncertainty about the new, more infectious South African variant and its response to the vaccine means that draconian restrictions like the ones announced by Boris Johnson last night are likely to be in place well into spring and beyond. Looking ahead, I fear next winter will be difficult too, with another increase in cases, hospitalisations and deaths, and likely more restrictions.

It will not be as bad as the year we have had, but we are very far from out of the woods and there are too many shifting parameters for me to be overly optimistic.

MASS TESTING WILL SAVE THE FESTIVALS  

Linda Bauld, Professor of Public Health at Edinburgh University

With a strict lockdown, things should start moving in the right direction by the end of January, but there won’t be much impact on the R rate before the middle of February. We may be living with severe restrictions until the end of next month. By early March, we should start to see the vaccine programme having some effect. And if the Government succeeds in vaccinating every care home resident by the end of January, for example, then we should see the impact of that by late February.

I’m optimistic that by May to June, hospital admissions will have declined dramatically. By then, if the vaccine programme goes well, then everyone over 50 and with underlying health conditions should have been vaccinated – this group accounts for 95 per cent of Covid deaths. If we can get the R rate to well below one and are only seeing new cases occasionally, then we could have a summer that is nearer to normal. But mass gatherings like festivals can only go ahead if there is mass testing – people would have to have a negative test within 72 hours of attending. International travel should also improve if we could have airport testing and repeat testing, linked to a proper quarantine system with support for those isolating. But not until there is global rollout of the vaccine will we be able to travel freely between countries again – and that goes beyond 2021.

WE NEED TO IMPROVE TRACK AND TRACE 

Hugh Pennington, Emeritus Professor of bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen

Clearly there is still a long, hard journey ahead in the fight against Covid-19. I believe we can only hope to return to some form of normality by next Christmas, and even that distant target depends on a number of factors, especially the success of the planned vaccination programme.

Its achievement relies in part on the capacity of the manufacturers to meet the colossal demand, a task made difficult not only by the pressures on global supply lines but also the requirement that every batch must be approved by the regulatory authorities.

But even if the vaccines are available in sufficient quantities, it will be a vast logistical operation to deliver them into the arms of the public. Then, we must also contend with concerns about the take-up, particularly among young people who are at little risk of serious illness even if they contract Covid and might, therefore, opt out of immunisation.

Nor will vaccines bring an immediate, dramatic reduction in infections. That is because the priority groups who will first be vaccinated – healthcare workers, care home residents, the elderly and vulnerable – are not super spreaders. Indeed many of them are already shielding.

It is only when the vaccines are given to the under-50s that there will be a truly significant impact – and that might take some time.

There are still many unknowns. How long will immunity last for each vaccinated individual, for instance – six months, two years, five years? And what about new mutations and variants imported from abroad? The scale of the problem means that in the coming months, tough interim measures will be needed, including mask-wearing, social distancing, strict controls on international travel and, regrettably, a full lockdown.

But lockdowns only work temporarily. Once lifted, the virus spreads. So this time it must be accompanied by a vast improvement to testing and Track and Trace. That is our only route to safety – and freedom.

 

There are concerns the programme will be hampered by problems and that the national shutdown could last much longer than ministers have promised. For comparison, the first lockdown in March went on for more than three months, despite Brits being told it would only last several weeks.

Professor Whitty also said tonight that by extending the gap between coronavirus jabs there was an increased ‘theoretical risk’ of an ‘escaped mutant’ of the virus emerging.

‘That is a real worry but quite a small real worry within the system,’ he said.

‘The general view was the size of the increase of the risk is sufficiently small that measured against this ability to double the number of people who actually are vaccinated, the public health arguments are really strongly for doing what we have decided to do.’

He added ‘Clearly, if we had infinite vaccine we might have taken different approaches, but we don’t.

‘At this point in time, for the next three to four months, the number of vaccines we have available is going to constrain our ability to get through the 25 to 30 million people we must do.

‘Whilst this is such a fast-moving virus at this time, our view was very strongly, on the balance of risk, the benefits to the UK for us at this point in the epidemic were in favour of doing this.’

While Sir Patrick Vallance said it is possible the South African coronavirus variant may have some effect on vaccine effectiveness but is unlikely to ‘abolish’ their effect.

The chief scientific adviser told the Downing Street press conference that a possible change in the virus shape in the variant ‘theoretically gives it a bit more risk of not being recognised’ by the immune system.

‘There is nothing yet to suggest that’s the case. This is being looked at very actively,’ he said.

‘It’s worth remembering that when a vaccine is given you don’t just make one antibody against one bit, you make lots of antibodies against lots of different bits, and so it’s unlikely that all of that will be escaped by any mutations. But we don’t know yet.

‘At the moment, you’d say the most likely thing is that this wouldn’t abolish vaccine effect. It may have some overall effect on efficacy but we don’t know.’

Urging No10 to deliver on their vaccine roll-out pledge, Sir Keir told the BBC this morning there was now a ‘race against time’ to scale up the UK’s vaccination programme during lockdown.

The Labour leader has backed Boris’ plans to vaccinate the top four priority groups by mid-February to allow the worst of restrictions to be eased by March, although he said it would be ‘a struggle’.

He added: ‘This is a race against time and we all hope that in that seven-week period this can happen. There’s no room for error from the government here. We can’t have yet more overpromising and under delivering.’

Supermarkets, high-street pharmacies and breweries have all offered to help deliver Britain’s great coronavirus vaccine drive. Three Morrisons car parks will be converted into drive-through Covid vaccination hubs from Monday, with another 47 on standby if ministers need them, according to the supermarket chain’s chief executive.

Boots is turning three of its pharmacies into vaccine sites in Halifax, Huddersfield and Gloucester from next week, and Tesco has offered up its warehouses and lorries to help move doses quickly around the country. Craft brewer BrewDog has also claimed it is in talks with ministers about turning its closed bars into temporary immunisation centres.   

Top epidemiologist Professor Gabriel Scally, from the University of Bristol, told MailOnline he was doubtful the Government will be able to live up to its vaccine promises, adding: ‘I haven’t seen enough detail or proof on how they’re going to do this, for me to be confident.’

He added: ‘There is a rosy glow around the vaccination programme but it has to be organised well. I’m concerned about the lack of local NHS organisation, there are no regional or local health authorities to run these programmen.

‘The lack of local organisation is one of the real problems the Government has had all along and it is why ministers took the easy option of giving Test and Trace to Serco and private companies. 

‘We musn’t forget yesterday the Government had to go into lockdown because there is a crisis wave of cases heading our way over the next few weeks and that is going to be number one priority.

‘The NHS will be battling two fronts [rolling out the jabs and battling Covid] which is hugely risky. Never in a million years would I plan to do it this way. 

‘We’ve known for months and months vaccines were coming, there were over 200 in production and we knew most would need two doses.

‘But we seem to be making up the rules as we go along, all of these issues about the roll out of vaccines, where they will be delivered and who should get them should’ve been worked out and how many doses.

‘It’s a dreadful situation we’re in. It looks as if the Government is making everything up as it goes along, it’s purely in reactive mode with no strategy.

‘If we acted firmer and sooner [with lockdown] we would’ve had the capacity and space in all respects to run a highly efficient, successful vaccine programme.’ 

It came as Michael Gove today delivered a stark warning that lockdown will only start to be lifted gradually in March – and that timeline depends on the government meeting its highly ambitious targets for vaccination.

The Cabinet Office minister admitted there was no ‘certainty’ that the brutal squeeze imposed by Boris Johnson on England last night will be eased at the end of February as hoped.

The PM set a goal of giving first doses of vaccine to more than 13million vulnerable people over the next seven weeks, with doubts already voiced over whether it is possible. 

But Mr Gove cautioned that even in the best case scenario not ‘all’ of the curbs will go, as he braced the weary public for a long haul to combat the fast-spreading new variant of coronavirus.

In a round of interviews, Mr Gove said a review of the situation would happen in the February half-term.

‘We hope we will be able to progressively lift restrictions after that but what I can’t do is predict – nobody can predict – with accuracy exactly what we will be able to relax and when,’ he told Sky News.

‘What we do know is that the more effective our vaccination programme, the more people who are protected in that way, the easier it will be to lift these restrictions.’

The heavy caveats came as Labour swiped that the PM had ‘over-promised’ about the vaccine hopes when made another extraordinary U-turn by plunging the country into a March-style lockdown, saying the NHS risked being overrun within weeks if he failed to act.   

Just a day after he urged parents to send their children back, Mr Johnson declared in a sombre address from No10 that primary and secondary schools will be shut from today, with only the vulnerable and offspring of key workers allowed to go in.

Nurseries can stay open. But university students are being told to stay at home and study remotely, while GCSE and A-level exams will not go ahead as planned. 

Teenagers might not know for weeks how their exams will be replaced, with Ofsted expected to launch a consultation, although government sources said some ‘contingency’ plans had already been considered. 

Under the the new guidance, published overnight, non-essential retail, all hospitality, gyms and swimming pools will be ordered to close – with Rishi Sunak due to lay out another package of support today amid growing fears about the impact on the economy. 

Cafes, bars and restaurants will be allowed to serve takeaway – but in a tightening from the draconian measures last spring, they will not be allowed to serve any alcohol. Vulnerable people are being told to shield where possible.  

The public will once again only be allowed to leave home for one of five reasons: to go to work if essential, shop for necessities, exercise – allowed with one other person from another household, care for someone, or to seek medical help or flee threat such as domestic violence.

Communal worship can continue with social distancing in place. 

Those who break the rules face a £200 for the first offence, doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400. 

The extraordinary third national squeeze will come into effect in the early hours of Wednesday after the regulations are laid today, but Mr Johnson urged the public to adopt the new rules now. MPs will get a vote on them on Wednesday when Parliament is recalled. 

Labour leader Keir Starmer said the crackdown was ‘essential’ and his MPs will support them, effectively guaranteeing their approval in the Commons. But he criticised the government for not changing course sooner and expressed serious doubts about the optimism over distributing vaccines.  

‘The prime minister said seven weeks – that’s to allow the vaccination programme to be rolled out for 13 to 14million people,’ Sir Keir said. 

‘That’s the ambition of the prime minister. I hope he is not over-promising. It’s going to be a struggle and we need to make this work.’

Senior Tory MPs had joined the Opposition in calling for the introduction of another national lockdown. But the idea of hardening the restrictions sparked fury from other Conservatives, who insist the country’s experience of the pandemic shows that lockdowns do not work and are crippling the economy. 

There are claims that at least two MPs have now sent letters of no confidence in the PM to Conservative backbench chief Sir Graham Brady – although the numbers are nowhere near the threshold to put his position in doubt. 

Britain’s Covid vaccine strategy could increase the risk of yet ANOTHER mutant strain

Britain’s coronavirus vaccination strategy could increase the risk of yet another mutant strain of the virus evolving by giving it more time to mutate.

Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, admitted at a Downing Street briefing today that extending the time between doses could let the virus evolve.

The Government last week unveiled its controversial policy which will see people given a single dose of a Covid jab without a second one lined up.

Both the vaccines approved so far – one made by Pfizer and the other by Oxford University – rely on two doses to be most effective, with them ideally spaced three weeks apart.

But in a scramble to stop the devastating second wave of Covid-19, Britain has abandoned this rule and decided it will extend the gap to 12 weeks so it can give more people a single dose as soon as possible.

The benefit will be that millions more people end up being vaccinated in the coming weeks. But it’s possible the vaccines won’t work as well in the long run.

Officials switched to this schedule because they want to vaccinate around 13million people by mid-February so that lockdowns can start to gradually be lifted.  

And Professor Whitty said this afternoon it may also raise the risk that an ‘escaped mutant’ version of the virus evolves to resist immunity produced by the jabs.

With his hands clasped together and seated behind a desk in Downing Street last night, Mr Johnson made clear there is no chance of them being lifted for at least seven weeks – and possibly longer if the vaccine rollout does not go well.

‘Our hospitals are under more pressure than at any time since the start of the pandemic. It’s clear we need to do more.. while our vaccines are rolled out,’ he said.

He said it would not be ‘possible or fair’ for exams to go ahead this summer as normal.

‘The weeks ahead will be the hardest but I really do believe that we are reaching the end of the struggle,’ he said, pledging that by mid-February the top four categories on the vaccine distribution list will have had their first jabs. 

There are 13.2million people in the top four groups on the vaccination list – care home residents and the over-80s, frontline healthcare workers, the over-70s and the clinically vulnerable. 

But the Prime Minister admitted that he could only give assurance that the situation will improve assuming that ‘our understanding of the virus does not change again’.  

He said: ‘By the middle of February, if things go well and with a fair wind in our sails, we expect to have offered the first vaccine dose to everyone in the four top priority groups identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

‘That means vaccinating all residents in a care home for older adults and their carers, everyone over the age of 70, all frontline health and social care workers, and everyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable.

‘If we succeed in vaccinating all those groups, we will have removed huge numbers of people from the path of the virus.

‘And of course, that will eventually enable us to lift many of the restrictions we have endured for so long.’ 

Mr Johnson said he was left with no option after being confronted with catastrophic figures about the burden on the NHS by science chiefs today. 

Hospital patients with coronavirus had risen by 40 per cent over a week, and are now higher than at the peak of the first wave. 

Martin Kenyon, 91, whose interview went viral after his first vaccine dose has received his second jab 

Martin Kenyon, 91, has received his second dose of vaccine

Martin Kenyon, 91, has received his second dose of vaccine

A pensioner whose interview went viral after his first dose of the Covid vaccine is one of few people to have received a second dose.

Martin Kenyon, 91, was one of the first people in the world to receive the vaccine last month and was interviewed on CNN as he left Guy’s Hospital in London.

Mr Kenyon became a viral star when he described getting his first vaccine by simply phoning the hospital and booking a slot.

He told the CNN’s Cyril Vanier: ‘I hope I’m not going to get the bloody bug now (…) there’s no point in dying when I’ve lived this long, is there?’

Mr Kenyon has since told Sky News he has now received his second jab and described the publicity surrounding his first jab as ‘nonsense’.

He said: ‘It’s all rather uninteresting – I feel exactly the same. It’s a good idea for people to have it.

‘It’s sensible. Rather like all the injections I’ve had all the 91 years I’ve lived.

‘I don’t understand the medical or scientific side of it all – but I do what I’m told and trust the experts.’

Mr Kenyon said after receiving his first jab, he was able to spend Christmas with his family and enjoyed reconnecting with his grandchildren.

The 91-year-old’s CNN interview amassed tens of thousands of shares across social media, with fans praising the ‘charming gentleman’ and labelling him a ‘treasure.’ 

Rishi Sunak today announced another £4.6billion of bailouts for lockdown-stricken businesses as economists warned of the ‘colossal’ hit from the surging pandemic.

The Chancellor declared that venues hammered by Boris Johnson’s dramatic decision will get one-off grants of up to £9,000 to keep them afloat over the next seven weeks.

Some 600,000 premises across the UK are set to receive the cash, while another £594million is being pumped into a ‘discretionary fund’ to support other firms affected.

Mr Sunak also pointedly refused to rule out extending the massive furlough scheme again beyond the end of April, merely saying he would ‘take stock’ at the Budget in March.

However, businesses warned that the package is not enough, amid pressure for VAT and rates relief to be kept in place to stop a wave of bankruptcies.  

The latest huge intervention came amid fears that the lockdown will slash GDP by up to 10 per cent in every month it is imposed – although the respected IFS think-tank said this morning that the impact might be lower as businesses have adapted since the first squeeze in March.

It will also raise alarm at the state of the government’s finances, with IFS director Paul Johnson saying the scale of the economic damage was the worst ‘in the whole of history’. Public sector borrowing could hit £400billion this year, with Mr Sunak already having warned of a reckoning later to balance the books.

In his speech to the nation, the Prime Minister said the previous tiers would have been enough to cope with Covid as it was originally, but the new variant – which is 50 per cent to 70 per cent more transmissible – was spreading in a ‘frustrating and alarming’ manner.

‘As I speak to you tonight, our hospitals are under more pressure from Covid than at any time since the start of the pandemic,’ he said.

Mr Johnson said that in England the number of Covid patients in hospitals has increased by nearly a third in the last week to almost 27,000 – some 40 per cent higher than the first peak in April.

On December 29 ‘more than 80,000 people tested positive for Covid across the UK’, the number of deaths is up by 20 per cent over the last week ‘and will sadly rise further’.

‘With most of the country, or maybe under extreme measures, it’s clear that we need to do more together to bring this new variant under control while our vaccines are rolled out,’ he said.

‘In England we must therefore go into a national lockdown which is tough enough to contain this variant.’

Mr Johnson said parents ‘may reasonably ask why’ decisions on schools were not taken ‘sooner’.

‘The answer is simply that we’ve been doing everything in our power to keep schools open because we know how important each day in education is to children’s life chances,’ he said.

‘And I want to stress that the problem is not that schools are unsafe for children. Children are still very unlikely to be severely affected by even the new variant of Covid.

‘The problem is that schools may nonetheless act as vectors for transmission, causing the virus to spread between households.’